On December 13th, New York City and Montreal-based artist Louise Despont headlines the highly anticipated re-opening of Nicelle Beauchene’s gallery on Broome Street, in an historic two-story building to be shared with Jack Hanley Gallery. Continuing her quest to get close to paper—to admire its quality and examine its imperfections—Despont’s latest body of drawings showcase the depth of her signature supports. Using antique ledgers scavenged from across the globe, Despont insists on the histories, shifting parameters, and disembodied pictorial effects of her source material. In this, her approach to geometric abstraction is not strictly formalist, but a means of structuring larger, more transcendental ideas about the world.
Guided by the ledgers’ ruled lines and patina, the artist fills their in-between spaces with spidery ink beds and intricate detailing. Graphite serves as a mainstay in the execution and ideology of her hand-drawn lines. It is often rubbed directly onto the surface with a cloth, challenging the scaffold of the gridded paper. This skillful process, aided by the artist’s use of architectural stencils, drafting tools, and compasses, culminates in ornate and fantastical designs.
Despont draws inspiration for her art from both her observable reality and the uncanny ‘otherworld.’ Each work is composed of repeating visual motifs—concentric circles, spikey triangles, hatched diamonds—that provide a conduit through which to achieve higher cognitive levels. Take for example The Host (2012), in which firmly-drawn curvatures and sharp angles, though static, appear to pulsate with subterranean reverberations upon prolonged inspection. Despont’s optical interplays generate an abstract art that leaves the subject-viewer to rely not only on sight, but also on intuition and sensation.
With drawing typically understood to be an inherently intimate activity that privileges time, care, and attention, the labor-intensive works on view counteract the rapid barrage of imagery that defines our digital age. There is value in the high effort they evince, as if the attention is itself a form of self-reflection—a testament to the astonishing power and slow pleasures that abide in Despont’s hand.
–Joanna Kleinberg Romanow, Assistant Curator