Aus dem Boden / From the Floor
This spring, The Drawing Center will present Neo Rauch: Aus dem Boden / From the Floor, the first exhibition entirely devoted to his drawings in the United States. Neo Rauch is one of the best-known artists from the Leipzig school in Germany. His psychologically complex paintings have been widely collected and written about for more than twenty years. Featuring more than one hundred fifty never or rarely seen works that span over thirty years of Rauch’s career, this exhibition will present drawing as an essential but often overlooked aspect of his oeuvre. A collaboration between The Drawing Center and the Des Moines Art Center, the show was presented first in Des Moines from September 27, 2018–January 6, 2019.
The drawings, which Rauch describes as “dreams on paper,” are made during periods of intense painting activity and are left on the floor of the studio for his assistant to pick up and place in flat files for storage. Rauch, who never makes preparatory sketches or drawings before he begins painting, uses the medium instead to mine his own subconscious and to visualize characters and scenarios for the works in progress. His drawings range from thumbnail compositional sketches for paintings, to phone doodles, to figure and landscape studies, and to more formal and completed works.
Co-organized by Brett Littman, former Executive Director of The Drawing Center, and Jeff Fleming, Director of the Des Moines Art Center, with Amber Harper, former Assistant Curator at The Drawing Center.
Neo Rauch: Aus dem Boden / From the Floor is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. A major contribution to the exhibition was made by The Robert Lehman Foundation, with additional support from David Zwirner, Raymond Learsy, and Gaa Gallery. Special thanks to Allen Adler for his support of the catalogue and to Galerie EIGEN+ART.
Image: Neo Rauch, Die Eselpfleger, 2013. Felt-tip pen and oil on paper, 8 1/4 x 11 5/8 inches. Courtesy the artist, Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin and David Zwirner © Neo Rauch, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Alternative Histories from Then to Now
As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now opens in The Drawing Center’s Lab gallery on April 12, 2019. The works in multiple mediums in this exhibition offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life. These works of consummate draftsmanship exemplify the skill of drawing and the imagination of artists at work turning fantasies into plausible realities—absurd, amusing, and sometimes terrifying. Whether exacerbating the contradictions of present society or imagining genuinely alternative utopias, the participating authors and artists traverse science fiction, popular culture, and genuine aesthetic thought-experiments. Spanning a historical era transformed by war, racial and economic inequity, authoritarianism, and the persistent fear of imminent apocalypse, these works offer alternative understandings of our present by rewiring the past.
History is always up for grabs. For centuries, writers, philosophers, and artists have speculated about historical narratives that run counter to actual historical events. What if, in 1859, John Brown’s successful raid on Harpers Ferry led to the establishment of a socialist nation called Nova Africa? What if, a few years later, in 1865, Susan B. Anthony became a gun-toting outlaw? A British General Strike in 1926 was a triumph? The Axis powers won World War II? Dewey defeated Truman? Raccoons or mosquitos evolved into the earth’s dominant species? Working towards utopian, reactionary, or simply ambiguous ends, the artists, writers, and amateur science fiction enthusiasts in this exhibition use the playground of history as a foundation on which to construct alternatives to the stark realities of the present—whether amplifying its inherent contradictions or imagining a better world.
Presented in As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now are early speculative fiction publications from the mid 20th century, including the British wartime fanzine Futurian War Digest and ongoing science fiction magazine Interzone (1982–present), on loan from the Special Collections of the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Book covers for Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, Philip K. Dick’s The Man in High Castle, Norman Spinrad’s Iron Dream, Martin Cruz Smith’s The Indians Won, and Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee are accompanied by album covers from the discography of Sun Ra and prints of Jack Kirby’s Lord of Light series, as well as the original ink drawing for the cover of Avengers #87, featuring Marvel’s T’Challa, the Black Panther, illustrated by John Buscema. These items are complemented by contemporary works on paper by artists including Huma Bhabha, Joe Bradley, Vivian Caccuri, Keith Mayerson, and Cauleen Smith.
Organized by Giampaolo Bianconi, guest curator, and Isabella Kapur, Curatorial Assistant, The Drawing Center.
As If: Alternative Histories from Then to Now is made possible by Anonymous, with additional support from the Director's Circle of The Drawing Center. Special thanks to Joel Wachs.
Image: J. Michael Rosenblum, ed., Futurian War Digest Vol. 1 no. 7, 1941. Published by J. Michael Rosenblum, Leeds, United Kingdom. Cover artwork by Harry Turner. Fanzine. Albin O. Kuhn Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
As part of its ongoing series of commissions for the Stairwell, The Drawing Center has asked New York artist Inka Essenhigh to create a site-specific wall drawing. Essenhigh’s installation is the third in the series, following Gary Simmons’s Ghost Reels (2016–18) and Abdelkader Benchamma’s Dark Matter (2015–16).
An artist whose influences range from Hokusai to Surrealism and Byzantine icons to graphic novels, Inka Essenhigh is known for her hallucinatory scenes that weave narratives about everyday life with otherworldly and science-fiction themes. For her panoramic installation in The Drawing Center’s stairwell, Essenhigh illustrates the story of an imaginary contest staged on a New York City street in which new glass-and-steel condominiums with human attributes engage in a showdown with the city’s more conventional buildings. Drawn directly on the wall, Essenhigh’s anthropomorphic buildings encircle the central motif of the drawing, a golden sunset that replicates “Manhattanhenge”—the effect of the sun when aligned precisely with the city grid—which has long been a mythic part of the city’s monumental architecture.
Organized by Brett Littman, Executive Director.
Inka Essenhigh: Manhattanhenge is made possible through the support of Miles McEnery Gallery and Stacey and Rob Goergen.
Image: Installation view of Inka Essenhigh: Manhattanhenge. The Drawing Center, New York, 2018. Photograph by Martin Parsekian.