Saturday, December 26, 2009

Drawings Big and Small

Drawing, as anyone who reads this blog knows, is a passion for me, so I savor every chance to see a good drawing show. This was a great week in that department, with gold-plated historical works at the Frick Collection in NY and a big contemporary shout at Joe Gallery in Philadelphia. The Frick's exhibit of French drawings from a private collection ("Watteau to Degas," - early 18th c. to late 19th c. - through Jan 10) presents virtuosity on the expected small scale, neatly framed, all made for the private pleasure of an artist or an artist's patron, done as sketches or studies for larger, more finished paintings. The atmosphere of the show, like that of the Frick altogether, is hushed and reverent - it's easy to imagine viewing these intimate marvels in a drawing room, talking quietly with heads together, about subtle line and nuanced shading. The exhibit at Gallery Joe, "Very Very Large Drawings (through Jan 30) strikes a significant contrast on all front. Vast sheets of paper, some framed, but some rolling down from ceiling to floor, boldly take up whole walls, crying out color, value, texture, in booming modern voices. The old guys would recognize (some) mediums - graphite, pencil, watercolor - but pigmented paper pulp, acrylic, enamel spray, along with the scale and the abstract content would be hard to figure out. I think they'd get it, though - drawings, fresh and unerringly personal, are a great place to see how far ahead some historical artists could be (look closely at the easy, abstract strokes of chalk in Watteau's portraits and see the startling modernity in Degas's Roman soldier's eyes.) Great joy is on display in both places, speaking clearly in the tones of a suitable age.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great connections made between the two shows. Really made me want to see the show of very very large drawings!