100 Drawings From Now

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday January 6, 2021

While having opposable thumbs sets us apart from the animal kingdom, the ability to hold a shard of charcoal, or any other mark-making stick, and draw, makes us human. For most artists, drawing is often the bridge from procrastination to expression—the quickest shift from being fogged in to being focused. Above: Francesco Clemente, “5-22-2020”, courtesy of Levy Gorvy. 

In the invitational exhibition currently on view at the Drawing Center, the idea that making marks on a surface can change one’s state of mind, state of awareness, state of being becomes evident in works assembled under the title 100 Drawings from Now. Comprised of works made since early 2020 by an international group of artists producing under lockdown, the exhibition offers an expansive view of how these people grappled with their concerns during a year of universal upheaval. Fear and isolation due to COVID-19; unrest and activism in response to systemic racism, social injustice, economic failure; and police brutality in the US, provoked responses on paper with the immediacy that drawing offers. 


Left: Rashid Johnson, “Untitled Anxious Red Drawing”, 2020, courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth; right: Katherine Bernhardt, “Untitled”, 2020, courtesy of the artist and Canada Gallery.

Most of these were made using marks on paper, some using a variety of collage and mixed media, and are presented as if snapped up from the artists’ tables and placed on the gallery’s metallic walls with magnets—no glass, no frames. The effect is one of making a direct connection with idea as image; for me it was like the rare opportunity to discuss my own thoughts with the makers. 

There are a variety of themes—isolation, the body, domestic life, nature—yet few direct references to the events that changed the world last year. But the ways in which drawing was taken up to expose truths lurking in commonality gradually becomes evident. Thinking about a world in transition makes for introspective understanding of self in evolution. The evidence here suggests the act of drawing induces a flow state in which an artists transform their actual surroundings—and often themselves—into a different form without losing the truth of the actual. 


Mika Rottenberg, “Cr121”, 2020, courtesy of The Drawing Center

Most artists work alone, but imposed isolation offers an environment for self-reflection that can be meditative. In solitude, many have turned to nature for sustenance, evidenced in Amy Sillman’s study of an iris, one of the first works to be seen on entering the main gallery. A seascape by Francesco Clemente suggests an ideal environment for an isolated non-gendered nude figure surrounded by fellow sea creatures including a large mollusk. With “Going for a Walk” by Camille Henrot, the body seems to reject required distance, from inside and out. The idea of physical intimacy itself is abstracted into a swirl of penciled lines and erotic motifs in “Cr121” by Mika Rottenberg. 



Left: Camille Henrot, “Out for a Walk”, 2020, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures; right: Sam Moyer, “Payne 105 (C-19),” 2020, courtesy of the artist and Sean Scully New York.


Anxiety, fear and rage make a psychological impact apart from political concerns in works that suggest that the current state of upheaval has become normalized. Rashid Johnson uses a pigment he created called Anxious Red in a drawing in which face-like abstractions overstep the grid in which they are placed, evoking this “incredibly anxious time” that “feels simultaneously unsettling, urgent, and radical.” In Daniel Lind-Ramos’s “Sketch for La Loca,” the artist refers to the incessant handwashing now required while referring to the Puerto Rican festival character who, he says, is “an allegory for hygiene who manifests herself to ward off our fears or drive away disease.”

Order and disruption is inescapable, an idea realized in an oil on cardboard piece by sculptor Sam Moyers, recently featured on Sculptors Alliance. An untitled page by Katherine Bernhardt suggests that certain addictions are in order, given the circumstances.

 In makings drawings, artists dissolve boundaries to allow certain freedoms in which anything is possible, proving (at least to me) that drawing changes everything.

100 Drawings from Now continues through January 17 at The Drawing Center; 35 Wooster Street, NY, NY. Reservations Info

Explore the exhibition 100 Drawings from Now in a virtual walkthrough led by The Drawing Center’s Executive Director Laura Hoptman, Chief Curator Claire Gilman, Assistant Curator Rosario Guiraldes, and Curatorial Assistant Isabella Kapure, here.PRinterview