In bed some nights, too tired to read, I lie on my side with my phone plugged into the wall and scroll through Instagram. Lately, perhaps because of the algorithms, process videos of illustrators painting have risen to the top of my feed. My favorites are the ones where the artist begins without a drawing, the canvas blank as a sheet; I like the mystery of the movement of the brush, following its slow dance across the paper. After thirty seconds, a minute, the strokes come together, and on the glowing screen, an image rises up, like an omen out of water. A face, a flower, a still life. I could watch them all night and often do, mesmerized by the startling process of creation.
The drawings at the center of Marlene Dumas’s current show at the David Zwirner gallery, “Myths & Mortals,” take their subject from Shakespeare’s poem “Venus and Adonis.” That poem is itself a retelling of Ovid’s Venus and Adonis, which is itself one iteration of a classic myth told around fires long before Ovid wrote it down. In this story, Venus, the goddess of love, has helplessly fallen for a young mortal hunter, Adonis. How impossible that the goddess of love could be a victim of love herself—and yet. Pricked by Cupid’s bow, she succumbs. Overcome by passion, desire courses through her body, making her cheeks pale and the sweat stand out on her brow. Read More