Good on Paper

"Drawing Now" stumbles in a number of places, however. Firstly, while many of the artists in it are good, not all of them make good drawings. Jennifer Pastor is a canny sculptress, but her drawings aren't anything. Similarly, Julie Mehretu's 10 small drawings lack the tactile, decorative energy of her paintings. Matthew Ritchie is one of my favorite artists, but these seven mid-scale works don't hold the eye. As fanciful as he can be large-scale, Takashi Murakami's nine small "Studies" are almost invisible. His fascinating gallery-mate, Yoshitomo Nara, fares only a little better. And Richard Wright's starlet-eyed wall drawing fizzles. Another problem is the choice of artists: Graham Little and Kevin Appel aren't interesting enough to be in a survey like this. The same is true of the Cuban collaborative Los Carpinteros, although their wall installation is fun in a "festivalist" way.

Additionally, "Drawing Now" defines the second word in its title too narrowly. "Now" should mean all contemporary art, not just art made by artists in their thirties or artists who show in "cool" galleries. This may be traceable to the institution. In the last decade MOMA has excelled at collecting contemporary art and it's done a number of fine "Project" shows, but it hasn't mounted enough big, messy surveys of new art not drawn from the collection. In 1976, it staged the first excellent "Drawing Now" show, which captured the shift toward process-oriented work and included artists like Serra, Bochner, and Marden. There should have been another one recording the changes that happened around drawing in the mid '80s and another in the early '90s. That way all the weight wouldn't have fallen on Hoptman.

Taking drawing from a verb to a noun: a detail of Barry McGee's installation for "Drawing Now: Eight Propositions"
photo: Robin Holland
Taking drawing from a verb to a noun: a detail of Barry McGee's installation for "Drawing Now: Eight Propositions"

Details

Drawing Now: Eight Propositions
Museum of Modern Art
33rd Street at Queens Boulevard
Long Island City
Through January 6

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"Drawing Now" is unabashedly about artists who emerged in the 1990s and what they did with drawing. Which is great—they deserve it. This exhibition has been in the planning for five years, and is a little overdue. As it is, for better or for worse, it shows that this generation has combined fantasy and imagination with mannerism, romanticism, academicism, surrealism, conceptualism, architectural drawing, cartooning, mapmaking, illustration, and various crafts. They may not have come up with an overarching, comprehensible style, but it's not about that; they have created a multiplicity of stylistic openings and done more than take drawing a step backward—they've actually gone forward as well.

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