Hello, My Name Is Simon...
Everybody with an operational limb -- and even some without -- draws. Human beings seem to have a need to make marks -- whether childhood scribbles, obsessive phone call doodles, lines drawn in the dirt, grand schemes outlined on cocktail napkins, or caricatures of high school teachers on blue-lined notebook paper. Since the beginning of time, we've been translating the 3-D world around us into 2-D marks, using patterns of lines to create visual pleasure or symbolic meaning. And now Mixture Contemporary Art celebrates the impulse in "Summer Drawings," a show featuring the work of 22 artists.
Of course, these are not your average doodlers. Patrick Phipps presents a wonderful series of cumulative drawings that he starts on quadrille desk blotters at work and finishes in the studio. (Phipps has one of the great artist employment gigs in town; his job at the Menil Bookstore is like an intellectual IV constantly dripping into his eclectic and acquisitive mind.) These large rectangular sheets of paper are covered with doodles, notes, random ideas and stream-of-consciousness thoughts A goofy drawing of a lizard/ bird/monster is accompanied by big letters that read "Rodan king of monsters, king of beers." One of those pointillistic Wall Street Journal portraits, an image of "Mr. Bean" Rowan Atkinson, is glued down next to Phipps's nicely skewed line drawing of same. A stamp reads "As Seen on TV," and a word balloon declares "Slim Pickins Rules." Names and numbers are scribbled down. A design for a pentagonal building is labeled "Library of Babel." And a Felix Guattari quote ("The forms of thought assisted by computer are mutant") is followed up by the words "vibro gang bang." Some of these images have gone on to make appearances in Phipps's large-scale works, but there is something wonderful about the randomness of these day-to-day accumulations.
Eric Pierce's anime-informed, big-eyed girls cavort with kitties and stuffed animals in odd scenarios. No More Mr. Wandering Eyes (2002), one of his more successful works, shows a cute little girl with cruelly arched eyebrows, holding out her hand. Two button eyes lay in her palm; the sightless teddy bear hangs slack from the crook of her other arm. The disturbing-undertones-of-cutesiness shtick has potential, but the execution is problematic. Pierce's pencil drawings feel unintentionally sketchy and in need of more breathing space on the paper. The single, crisp ink drawing is the most technically appealing.
Robyn O'Neil's drawings demonstrate the amazing things that can be done with a No. 2 pencil. Her beautifully rendered and absolutely ridiculous imagery leaves you wanting more: Sensitively drawn monkey people wander in snowscapes dotted with perfect Christmas trees; some scraggly escapee from Margaritaville cavorts in the powdery whiteness while aliens wander down the slopes and a baby gorilla crops up in the foreground. There's something oddly familiar about O'Neil's drawing style, vaguely calling to mind an illustrated science book series for children.
Neil Farber's Radiation Damage from Acute Exposure (2000) helpfully illustrates side effects by labelling them on a cat with stick legs and an eggplant-shaped body. "Skin blisters" are a cluster of little circles, "damage to adenoids and tonsils" calls attention to two tiny misshapen lumps, and the belly contains a comically serpentine digestive system. In Pet Shop Battle a cat with a mop of hair stares down a tank full of octopuses. Farber's drawing style has its own children's book aspect to it, but the nicely twisted scenarios give the work plenty of edge.
Rachel Hecker displays her gift for pop culture image juxtapositions in drawings like Man with Princess Phone (2000), which features a man in a blue suit and luxuriant sideburns who could have just stepped out of a frame from "Apartment 3G" in the Sunday comics. A pretty princess phone floats over him in dainty anticipation.
The figure drawings that make an appearance in the show are nicely skewed well beyond Life Drawing 101. The Art Guys are exhibiting a series of 1996 vector drawings created by plotting point-to-point lines from porn photos. There are close-ups of fellatio, cunnilingus, a squatting naked woman -- all represented via clunky, jagged lines that trace genitalia and render pubic hair. It's human sexuality illustrated via a computer program.
Mark Allen's ink drawings have the evocative and archaic lines and spatters of India ink and dip pens. A hairy, hoofed leg sports a crisscrossed platform wedge sandal. Allen's drawing style has a matter-of-fact awkwardness to it, with lines that are drawn and then redrawn.
There are shades of Balthus in Eric Michael Jones's drawings of preadolescent girls. The softly stylized images are nicely rendered, but there's something too mannered about the way they trail off -- some limb always left undrawn. His School Girl (2002) stands in a skirt and sweater with only one leg disappearing below the top of her boot. The studied incompleteness undermines the work.
Other drawings explore schematics and environments. Danielle Tegeder's Night Transport Signal Drawing II with Upside Down Cell Tree, Three Igloo Habitats and Headquarters Rotunda (2001) is like some sort of Constructivist-meets-Deco utopian plan. Spheres, pods and slender networks of lines create an underground world in white and silver inks on black paper. Rounded silos emerge from a horizon line where delicate ladders reach into the earth. An elongated subterranean capsule is filled with colored circles that look like the "tiny time capsules" in a giant dose of Contact cold medicine. Tegeder has developed her own legend, ascribing meaning to the geometric forms she uses; some of the shapes are "Love Dot Boilers," others are "Mandalla Headquarters." The sleek, graphic elegance is softened by her use of careful hand drawing rather than computer generation.
Aaron Parazette presents his own utopian interiors: stylized rooms with sleek modernist furniture (Saarinen chairs and Corbusier couches) rendered in nicely mottled, watercolored silhouettes against large windows. Outside crash huge, organic waves derived from the woodcuts of Hokusai. Framed in shiny retro silver, Parazette's Interior with Tsunami series could be the daydream of a style-conscious surfer.
Lichen Log Pile (2002), a tiny work by Mala Iqbal, is a strange little jewel in the show. A smoky psychedelic background of greens and purples is airbrushed with a meandering pattern reminiscent of Loony Toons cartoon smoke. An excessively detailed log pile rests in the foreground. Painted in gouache, the greenish highlights picked out against the dark log shapes give it the hyper-real kitsch appeal of a black velvet painting.
It's no mean feat that all 95 works in this packed exhibition are worth seeing. It's even more impressive that they'll make you want to pull out a pencil and draw.
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