Thursday, April 06, 2006

Obsessive Drawing (NYC)

On March 16th, just before departing from New York, I visited the “Obsessive Drawing” show at the American Folk Art Museum, next door to MoMA. This compact show of five self-taught artists was more compelling than most of what I saw in Chelsea. The work of Eugene Andolsek (b. 1921) consists of intensely patterned drawings using ink colors of his own mixing, applied with astonishing precision (photo above, from the museum website). Most of the six drawings were displayed parallel to the floor, on pedestals. Andolsek is a classic instance of an outsider artist. According to a notice by Ken Johnson in the New York Times, Andolsek began drawing in 1953 as a way to ease his fear of being fired from his office job. Over the next 50 years, he made thousands of drawings, putting them away in trunks. How wonderful that this work has come to light. Andolsek now lives in Pennsylvania, in a home for the aged, and no longer draws.

Like Andolsek, New Zealand artist Martin Thompson (b. 1956) begins with graph paper. Using one color of ink per drawing, he makes pixelated diptychs in which the pixels are reversed in the two parts (photo above, courtesy of the artist, as reproduced by N.F. Karlins on Mathematical formulas inform the patterns, in a way similar to the work of Xylor Jane.

The largest drawing in the show, and one of the largest drawings on paper you are likely to see, was a 4' x 35' panorama in graphite by Chris Hipkiss (b. 1964, England), who lives in France. This aerial view of a fantasy landscape, entitled “Lonely Europe Arm Yourself,” was created over a period of two years. A detail is shown above (photo from the John Michael Kohler Center, as reproduced by N.F. Karlins on

I was not permitted to take photos at the exhibit. A decent brochure was offered, but there was no catalog, and the visual documentation on the museum website is inadequate. The website does offer (at least temporarily) links to reviews that provide further details about the artists.

No comments: