That’s Drawing: talking about Imaginary Friends

By Adam Fotos

Usually what’s considered as the underneath of a painting or the before of a sculpture, drawing is often chaperoned by the fact that’s it’s the beginning of something grander. In the hierarchy of the art world, drawing might be classified as endearing, but bearing much less weight than painting or sculpture. And maybe that’s the way it should be – non-grand and free from the burdens of import or “high art.”

Imaginary Friends is an exhibit featuring the drawings of nine studio art graduate students in the Link Gallery, in the Art and Design Building. The curatorial statement opens, “Much of the drawing that happens in our program tends to be of a covert nature. That can mean we keep it secret and hidden, or that it has a doodle-ish quality like one might find in a notebook margin.”

The artists arrive at different meanings for drawing, and they have their own sense of what meaning drawing should and can carry.

Aaron Dugger’s Giant Robot, an ink drawing, stands as the thickly inked yet flat sentinel of the show. Dripping with ink, the automaton rises out of mid- twentieth century comics and tries to blink menacingly at us with its tiny antenna.

Nam Clark packages ink into his drawings of over-the-top, stereotypical black cartoon figures, interrogating ideas and myths of “blackness.” Inkie Under Attack features one of these figures cowering under a maniacal blonde-haired redneck who happens to have angel wings and a rebel flag attached to his tricycle body.

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In Andy DuCett’s Where did you come from? Memories of the past, present and future. OR The underlying connections that facilitate our everyday architecture, we can wander through a self-contained, multivalent universe that is just as obsessive and overworked as the title – and considerably more stimulating than a Where’s Waldo – with its own cathedrals, cruise ships, capitol buildings and even the Justice League.

Kim Purkiss generates Linescape with wandering pastel lines that outline and contour with a fragility that manages to muscle piles of rocks in tubular, cross-sectioned caves. Pencil lines skip across the vast paper field as if made by a pencil attached to a drill – no, wait, they were drawn with a drill.

Mariah Johnson’s Big Soap papers 1 and 2 seem as though they were peeled off the wall of an old house – but in the best kind of way. Washed with nostalgia and memory, floral patterns blend and fade into browns, making the personal accessible.

Rashelle Roos executes Yabanci T rkiy‚de (Foreigner in Turkey) and other pieces all in marker, rendering flat abstraction plays out the global signs of traffic, construction and direction. She reconstitutes them into autonomous worlds with brightly colored figures.

YoungJoo Lee renders realistic paint tubes in Growing Color, only to take us out of the illusionistic space and back to the flatness of the paper with abstract streams of paint coming straight out of the tube.

In Dream Gurls, Chelsea Fields gives us a collection of erotic yet abstract pin-ups that bend off the wall and their simple pastel backings. Rendered in brightly colored chalk with complex and playful anatomies, the organic forms morph between having breasts or shells, hiked up dresses or coral nests.

Then there’s my installation Cipherlicious, in which I’ve pinned up ink drawings of toys, abstract drawings with spilled paint, and found paper pieces like a diagram of a record player, a Valentine’s Day sign I took from a KFC in China, and a drawing of my girlfriend.

If drawing is free from the baggage of painting as a “high art,” what can we accomplish with it?

Drawing has a certain honesty in its immediacy. If it’s scribbled onto a Trapper-Keeper or the back seat of a bus, it may have only taken a few seconds to escape the pen or pencil but the meaning is still there – if there’s any meaning at all.

And that’s what is kind of grand about drawing. It is what it is, there on the surface of the paper. It doesn’t have to hang in a big gallery to get its point across. It can just sit in the corner, hang out for a while, and if somebody happens to notice it and maybe smile or snicker to themselves before it gets swept away – that’s drawing.