This exhibition was conceptualized by Aart de Jong and is being presented in his memory.
In March and April 1986, in various hotel rooms in Lisbon, Portugal, I developed a working method suited to the peculiar restrictions attendant with any attempt to use the hotel room as a studio. This resulted in an extensive and continuing series of small blue ink drawings and collages, all of them produced in hotel rooms.
From the start, the small blue drawings have tended to organize themselves into suites, which I have sometimes named after the location of production. The first of these was the 122 part York House Suite, after the small hotel in Lisbon where the first works were produced. Exhibited here is 1panema Suite, after the neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro where I have stayed, at various times and in various hotels, between November 1986 and October 1987. Certain of these hotel-specific works have proved useful in coping with the increasing cost of good quality hotel accommodations. Aart de Jong, while organizing the original version of this exhibition, derived evident pleasure, when purchasing two drawings made at the Palace Hotel in Madrid, in paying for them exactly the amount I paid for the room as it appeared on a credit card statement. Seven Hundred Seventy-two dollars and eighteen cents.
Until Redon and Blake the Artist’s drawing functioned primarily as a stepping stone and guide post towards a greater end; the finished masterpiece; the Painting. Their works on paper, however, became ends unto themselves, the reason being the Symbolist content each explored.
No less important to Drawing’s emancipation is Modernism, where a work on paper’s importance could stand alongside the time honored practice of Painting without fear of being considered a lesser activity.
So where have these two divergent paths led the state of Drawing? Back to where drawing began, for like the wall drawings at Altamira, knowledge of the vocabulary used, makes a drawing an historical document, and when that knowledge evades the viewer, what remains is the fascination with creation itself.
Brett De Palma
Artist’s Statement on Aart
I remember doing the drawings on the kitchen table in the country, in the rainy night, while waiting for the linemen to come and fix the bare wires where sparks bounced up and down. I remember going from the table, to the door, back to the table to carve out small bits of the drawing at a time; honing out the little statues like stone. Later that summer, I remember going to the phone from that same table to hear a message on the machine in the city from Aart’s wife about how his birthday party had been cancelled.
There was no explaining; no ego-maniacal posturing; no axe to grind; no dealer’s spy; not out to make a killing; no down-the-nose perspective; no “I am here to help you-do as I say; ” no power broking; yet utterly unafraid. He took the artist on his own.
I remember Aart’s lack of both pretention and bluff. I did not get that all too tired sense of a poker game. There were no questions of what exactly was it that I was doing, but rather the smile of recognition.
There was excitement in meeting someone who seemed to be coming from the other side of the fence, only to realize that he was really a kindred spirit on the same side: a creative artist in another guise.
Sometimes the brevity is actually a lifetime. This princely human seems all the more missed to me now for his rarified humanity. All of his taken away in a flash. What is the meaning in that? The meaning is that I will remember Aart. The, tragedy for me is now, when you are no longer here, I feel like I want to know you even more!
The drawings I am showing, Anticipating The Inevitable, 1983, were chosen last year by Aart de Jong in my studio at 591 Broadway. Aart brought up the idea of a group show with Michael, Donald, Brett and Robin. It made perfect sense. I said yes and we had some tea. We talked about James Ensor, Paul Klee, Jose Guadalupe Posada and George Roualt and then some others like the Flemish Expressionists Permeke and De Smeet, Symbolists Kubin and Redon. Then we looked at drawings. Aart chose twelve drawings which we agreed should stay together as a set.
12 Skeletal images made in a moment. The image of Death as a moment of passage into several different afterworlds. The shared innocence of the unknown that can only be assumed. What is so funny about death anyway! Life can be death if you don’t live it.
Happy sad mad glad we-do it and we die. The dance of death. Our deadline is always around the corner. The facial expressions of the wise and foolish follow us always. This body is a machine whose manipulations are intentional metaphors for mind and spirit. I know I will never get out of this world alive. We are a sleeping unconsciousness made of postures and gestures. The spirit meets the body. Heavenly and Earthly love embrace us. Can you miss someone because you didn’t get to know them better? Yes you can.