by Sabine Eckmann, Director & Chief Curator
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is very pleased to present Notations: Contemporary Drawing as Idea and Process, an exhibition of more than sixty artworks by thirty-nine artists, dating from the late 1950s to today, selected from the acclaimed collection of Sally and Wynn Kramarsky. The exhibition focuses on artistic practices that emerged during the postwar period—a time of great innovation in drawing—that continue to influence contemporary practitioners. Included are works by Carl Andre, Mel Bochner, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, Nancy Holt, Agnes Martin, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and other seminal American artists associated with the rigorous and process-oriented practices of Minimal, Postminimal, and Conceptual art. These artists introduced a critical shift away from drawing as autographic (in which the artist’s hand is made present) toward a form of nonrepresentational mark making derived from the application of systematic processes, repetition, and an exploration of the medium’s material and conceptual conditions.
Drawing played a decisive role in attempts by artists associated with Minimal and Conceptual art to open up established understandings of aesthetic production. As such, the medium offers a compelling means through which to reexamine the established narrative of the art of this period. In her catalog essay, Meredith Malone, the curator of the exhibition, explores the generative relationship between the use of a priori systems and the individual touch of the artist in a postwar artistic milieu that widely embraced a “serial attitude.” Recognizing that the marked shift away from forms of gestural disclosure to rational, antiauthorial approaches occurring in the 1960s was never as definitive or clear-cut as suggested in art historical accounts, Malone approaches drawing as a powerful lens through which to examine the productive tensions between rational calculation and subjective expression, concept and material form, precision and disorder that animate much of the work on view in this exhibition.
Notations also examines work by subsequent generations of artists, including Janet Cohen, N. Dash, Nicole Fein and Hadi Tabatabai, who employ procedures rooted in Process and Conceptual art; and Christine Hiebert and Allyson Strafella, who foster exploratory relationships with their materials and mediums. The juxtaposition of works by several generations of practitioners, both established and emerging, reflects the sustained appeal of drawing to artists, who embrace its immediacy, mobility, and economy.
The Kemper Art Museum’s presentation of Notations provides a significant platform to showcase noteworthy inquiries into the medium of drawing that are unfortunately not well represented in the Museum’s permanent collection. Minimal, Postminimal, and Conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s brought about a sea change in contemporary artistic production and remains foundational for subsequent generations, who frequently return to the radical strategies staked out by artists such as Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and Robert Smithson. Concerns with time, unconventional materials, repetition, seriality, and what constitutes an artistic practice are all of vital interest to artists working in today’s contemporary climate of ongoing upheaval and rapid advancement of digital technologies. The desire to draw and to mark has resurfaced in the practices of numerous artists who, much like their predecessors, seek to expand their capacities for invention while working to regain a sense of bodily experience. The exhibition of these works augments and enhances the Museum’s ability to offer special exhibitions that advance our commitment to inspiring social and intellectual inquiry into the connections between art and contemporary life.
The drawings presented in Notations have been generously lent by Sally and Wynn Kramarsky, New York collectors with a strong commitment to the medium of drawing and to supporting artists at all stages in their careers. Over the years, the Kramarskys have built an impressive collection recognized for its extensive overview of canonical abstract, Minimal, and Conceptual art.
We extend heartfelt appreciation to the Kramarskys for the opportunity to present these exceptional works from their collection at the Museum, as well as for their commitment to the success of this project. We would also like to recognize the outstanding efforts of the Kramarsky team, including Rachel Nackman, curator; Michael Randazzo, coordinator of special projects; and interns Madeleine Haddon and Nathan Langston. Rachel’s extensive knowledge of the collection has been a tremendous asset in determining the final selections for the exhibition and her research from the collection archives significantly contributed to advancing the scholarship presented in the exhibition and the accompanying catalog. Rachel also organized and edited this online catalog, as part of a series of web-based projects produced by the Kramarsky Collection under the auspices of About Drawing. The catalog provides an important record of the exhibition itself and insight into the individual artworks presented.
My sincere congratulations go to Meredith Malone, curator of the exhibition; not only does her scholarship probe new notions of the medium of drawing in the post–World War II period, but her unflagging commitment to the exhibition in both its scholarly and its organizational aspects has resulted in an exciting project that will engage the St. Louis community on many different levels.
In addition, many thanks go to the contributors to the catalog, which includes entries authored by graduate students in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis (Matthew Bailey, Amanda Beresford, Jennifer Padgett, and Elissa Weichbrodt) and at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (Kristen Gaylord and Delia Solomons). Interviews with artists participating in the exhibition were conducted by Rachel Nackman, Wynn Kramarsky, Michael Randazzo, and contributor Tad Mike; transcripts and select audio clips are included in the catalog. Karen Jacobson edited the catalog. Her knowledge, diligence, attention to detail, and professionalism are very much appreciated. Yasmin Khan, graphic designer, lent her expertise to the catalog.
At the Kemper Art Museum, special thanks go to the entire staff; they continue to produce one outstanding exhibition after another. Jane Neidhardt, managing editor of publications, expertly ushered the catalog through to completion. Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena, Los Angeles–based architects, thoughtfully designed the exhibition, and we are grateful to continue such a productive and creative collaboration with them.
I also would like to extend my gratitude to Anabeth Weil, chair of the Museum’s National Council, and John Weil, chair of the Sam Fox School’s National Council, for their support and valuable guidance. Lastly, I would like to thank Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, and Mark Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University, for their unfailing commitment to this and all Museum projects.
William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum
Washington University in St. Louis