Ralston Crawford Untitled (Top of a Mast), c. 1934 watercolor on paper 7 1/2×5 7/16 inches
511 Projects is pleased to announce the exhibition, Works on (with) Paper – drawings, etchings, screenprints, monoprints, watercolor paintings, digital prints, and book art by fifteen artists – emerging, mid-career, and established – whose work represents not only a full range of drawing instruments but also varied approaches to consideration of the basic support of the artwork itself (paper). Many of the works on view in the show illustrate a newly informed usage of paper as an important and active part of the art object: paper is seen as equal to any implement used in the making of the work.
“Anything on a surface has space behind it,” wrote Donald Judd in his article, “Specific Objects.” Judd was writing about painting and sculpture, but his assertion holds true for even the supposedly flattest surface of all, that is, paper.
Ralston Crawford’s watercolor, Untitled (Top of Mast) (ca. 1934) is a piece of paper, painted pale blue on which has been drawn the upper part of a sailboat’s mast and crow’s nest, painted brown, and the stays and halyard emanating from them. The image, then, seems simple: 18 black lines and 3 shades of color drawn and painted on a small piece of paper. But it is what Crawford has done with the piece of paper that makes the drawing dimensional and, to some extent, presages the specific objects of Minimalism by three decades. By drawing out the lines that are the stays and halyard to the very edges of the paper, on all four sides, he has defined an entirely new pictorial space that goes beyond the simple vertical rectangular shape that is the paper itself. By creating triangular and trapezoidal forms within the lines, the artist has effected spaces on the paper, made us aware of the rectangular space that is defined by the paper, and also enabled us to visualize the spaces out in space, those spaces created by the extension of the lines, perhaps into infinity. The paper is as crucial to the image as the lines drawn on it or the paint fused into it.
Made over sixty years after Crawford’s Precisionist painting, print and book artist Robert Kirschbaum’s Squaring the Mount (1997-98), line etching and softground) resolves a similar challenge of how to transform a volumetric physical space – the irregular quadrilateral plan of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – into an architectural abstraction, a line drawing that can carry both the meaning of the real sacred space that exists off the paper and the geometric creation of space that fuses the shape of the squaring of the Mount with the shape of the rectangular paper on which it is “squared.” Like Crawford’s Mast, Kirschbaum’s Mount uses the paper as more than mere “support.” It is a complicitous agent in the creation of the image and its meaning beyond itself.
The artists in Works on (with) Paper position themselves differently in relationship to the paper they use to make art. Some do it by creating an abstraction that is an aerial view of a real or imagined place (Ross Racine; Lesley Punton); others by layering bands of colored shapes to form seemingly volumetric images of someone or something on top of an abstract space on top of a sheet of paper (Larry Rivers) or by erasing lines built up into a form so that the once-concealed paper steps forward into the image created (Mary Reilly, Nature Study, Harlem Meer, 2007); and one even makes photographs that are images of pieces of paper bent or folded into geometric shapes, then printed on rectangular flat photographic paper (Joanna McClure, Untitled, 2012). In the works on view, a new dimension is accorded to what has traditionally been viewed as little more than a support for the artist’s expression and intention – paper.
The artists whose work is included in Works on (with) Paper are: Allen Blagden; Ralston Crawford; Robert Kirschbaum;Leslie Lerner; Caitlin Masley; Joanna McClure; Jennifer Odem; Lesley Punton; Ross Racine; Susanne Ramsenthaler; Mary Reilly; Larry Rivers; Alex Schuchard; and Viviane Silvera.
511 Projects is the curatorial practice of 511 Gallery, which organizes exhibitions for museums, art centers, corporate spaces, and other venues.