Cultured Magazine

February/March 2015

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"I am moved by the materiality and the intimacy of drawing—the act of stopping and paying attention as a form of artistic creativity," says Claire Gilman, curator at The Drawing Center, the standard-bearing SoHo institution dedicated to honoring and parsing the medium of drawing. Most artists and many non-artists draw every day, Gilman suggests from her cozy, doodle-filled office on Wooster Street. But def ining a drawing—that uniquely personal, traditionally tactile form that Henri Matisse said permits an artist's feelings and soul to "travel without difficulty to the spirit of he who looks on"—has become challenging in a conceptual age. Gilman says a drawing is more than a work on paper. "A drawing can move into space, sculpture and performance," she explains. "Some contemporary artists call work you woul dn't necessarily think of as a drawing, 'drawn.' If it were acquired by a museum, it probably wouldn't go into the drawings department. But, as in the case of Rashid Johnson, the subject of an upcoming exhibition at The Drawing Center, it's a form of drawing because it's about mark-making and the drawn gesture, even if it's in soap or wax or sticks." Now in her fifth year at The Drawing Center, Gilman and her colleagues consistently embrace and contextualize nontraditional drawings. In November 2013, she curated an exhibition called "Pencil Sketches," which showcased the handwritten manuscripts of American poet Emily Dickinson and Swiss writer Robert Walser. In 2014, Executive Director Brett Littman installed the graphic inklings of avant-garde Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. "We want to question and explore th e medium of drawing," says Gilman. "What can it be? How does it function? We are interested in all the ways it's used in the creative processes for artists of all kinds." Established masters are welcome, too. A five- decade survey of Gerhard Richter's drawings was a smash in 2010. "We like to do shows where there's something distinctive about the drawing practice, where it adds something to the dialogue tha t one couldn't get by looking at the artist's paintings," says Gilman. The Drawing Center's current retrospective, "Tomi Ungerer: All in One," is the nearly 40-year-old institution's first solo show to feature an illustrator. It includes Ungerer's children's book drawings, his satirical and political work as well as a selection of erotic drawings. At 83, Ungerer is revered in Europe, and is the only livi ng artist in France with a museum dedicated to him. But, "He's underappreciated in the U.S.," says Gilman. Ungerer left New York in 1971 after a brouhaha over his erotic drawings. "The children's book establishment had a real problem with those," Gilman explains, though she insists there's "a strong connection between Tomi's erotic work and the rest of his canon. There's a deep humanity in it that people overlook because of the titillation aspect." The exhibition also includes a drawing in response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings that Ungerer made just days before the show's January opening. It shows the Statue of Liberty nailed to a cross and reads La Liberté Crucifiée ("Liberty Crucified"). "He's been consistently politically active, growing up on the French-German border during World War II and drawing cartoons mocking Hitler as a young boy," some of which are on view. "He has received medals of honor in Europe for his political work," Gilman explains. "He's a wonderful human being. I hope he gets the recognition in the States that he deserves." 112 CULTURED PHOTO BY ALEXANDER GREENAWALT "Guillermo Kuitca: Diarios," pushed the "drawing" boundary in 2012. At The Drawing Center, Claire Gilman continues to redefine the medium at the venerable New York institution. BY TRACY ZWICK PAPER FETISH

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