Since 1979, The Drawing Show has been a hallmark of the BCA’s programming. Andrew Stein Raftery, an Associate Professor of Printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, selected the artists for this year’s exhibition. Andrew’s work is featured in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fogg Art Museum.
This year’s exhibition examines how artists use drawings in the preliminary stages of the creative process to convey an idea. The 36 selected artists were chosen from a wide pool of applicants and the exhibition includes prints that demonstrate the preparatory phase of such mediums as sculpture, video, digital prints, collage and painted color studies.
“I am most interested in drawings that illuminate an artist's train of thought and often selected works that are rough or show the signs of erasure and revision,” explained Raftery. “In my own work as an engraver, I make up to fifty preparatory drawings and sculptural studies before I even touch the burin to the copperplate. My question to myself as I juried the show was: How do other artists use drawing practices to prepare their work?”
Andrew took a few moments away from his sketch pad to speak with CenterFocus about the jury process for the show, the elements of a good drawing and the importance of visual literacy.
Sean Horrigan: What are the elements of a good drawing? What are the key traits you look for when evaluating an entry to the show?
Andrew Stein Raftery: As I looked at each entry I considered how it might have contributed to the development of a finished work of art or design. I am most interested in drawings that illuminate an artist's train of thought and often select works that are rough or show the signs of erasure and revision. In my own work as an engraver, I make up to fifty preparatory drawings and sculptural studies before I even touch the burin to the copperplate. My question to myself as I juried the show was: How do other artists use drawing practices to prepare their work?
SH: Did you find any common themes in this year's pool of entries? How would you describe the body of work?
ASR: I appreciated the fact that many artists responded to the concept of the exhibition and pulled works from their portfolios, flat files and studio shelves that they might not have exhibited under other circumstances. The artist's engagement with the idea of preparatory work forced me to enlarge my definition of drawing to include a broad range of media. In addition to a diverse range of works on paper in traditional drawing media, I was compelled to include sculpture, video, digital prints, collage and painted color studies. In each case the work convinced me that it made a significant contribution to the artist's process.
SH: Are the chosen works done by both professionals and amateurs?
ASR: The range of applicants ran the gamut from highly experienced to very young artists, but in no case did I see work easily classified as amateur. I was very impressed by the quality and seriousness of the entire group.
SH: Is it essential for an artist to master drawing before moving on to such mediums as painting, sculpture, etc?
ASR: Mastery involves knowing what is required to realize a given work of art in its strongest possible form. Mastery can refer to skill, but on a deeper level it is the ability to recognize the best course as choices arise during the creative process.
The pieces selected for the exhibition were made in preparation for work in a variety of media including painting, installation, sculpture, textile design, printmaking, performance and even pyrotechnic design. The artists have selected media and visual language that allow them to research and resolve the form and content of the finished work. If the work accomplished by these studies truly illuminates the path to completion, mastery has been achieved.
SH: In your opinion can anyone truly learn to draw?
ASR: Everyone should have the opportunity to learn to draw. Visual literacy is as important as learning to read. Understanding the world we perceive with our eyes and in our minds through tools manipulated by our hands is a critical step in developing visual literacy.
SH: How should visitors approach this exhibition? Should they view each piece as an individual entity or should they look at it from a larger perspective?
ASR: I hope viewers see the exhibition as an exercise in imagination. Each work asks and answers questions that will lead to a finished work in another medium. The show provides an opportunity to see the artist's mind at work at a mid-point in the creative process. It is not all cerebral though as many of these works display the intimacy and immediacy of touch that have always been appreciated in drawing.
The Drawing Show runs from September 11 through October 25th.
Opening reception: Thursday, September 10, at 6 pm. Free and open to the public.
Gallery Talk: Andrew Stein Raftery will give talks on Wednesday, September 30 and Wednesday, October 14 at 6 pm in the Mills Gallery.
Family Day: Saturday, September 19, 1-3 pm in the Mills Gallery. For details see the Family Day article.
The Mills Gallery
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