The Drawing Center was really fascinating, and the exhibition on show now, The Pencil Is a Key: Drawings by Incarcerated Artist, evoked many emotions for me. The exhibition is a direct response to the unjust incarceration system in the United States and around the world, and the impact it has on people. I thought that hearing Rosario Güiraldes talk about the curatorial process regarding this show helped provide a more complete understanding of the message behind the show. Güiraldes had to do a lot of traveling for the show in order to meet with artists and try to collect work suitable for the exhibition. It was interesting to think about having to go out and find the work from so may places, it is a very tedious process. She knew so much history behind each artist and work featured, and you could tell she was very passionate about her work. Güiraldes and her colleagues were able to give a platform to people whose stories are very necessary to be heard, because a lot of the time they do not receive the opportunity to be heard. In this way, the power of art showed through in a powerful way. Art is able to leave a lasting impact which sticks with people and influences the way we perceive the world.
It was interesting to hear Güiraldes discuss drawing itself as a medium as well. Drawing is often not seen as prominently in galleries and museums as other mediums. Güiraldes talked about the importance of drawing, and how while other mediums are not always accessible to people, drawing can be done virtually anywhere and with a variety of supplies. In this way, drawing made even more sense to be the chosen medium for the context of the exhibition. We were able to see drawing on cards, paper, found objects like folders and even fabric. While all the pieces had different style, all of them had a delicate and refined quality even if they were heavily detailed. Drawing allows for a freedom of expression, and way to get across an idea. I liked how the drawings used not only graphite and pencil, but ink, watercolor, and other materials to make the show more dynamic. While there may be limitations within other mediums, it made me realize how accessible drawing is, and how it is liberating and widely available.
Later in the day we visited several galleries. The one that stuck out the most to me personally was Meredith James’ Shadows on the Wall by Jack Hanley. This exhibition featured a variety of found objects, such as a chair which were then reimagined and transformed into new forms which featured miniscule interior settings. The result created visual illusions and disorientations from the familiar and expected, in contrast to what was actually shown. Where one expected a seat cushion would be in a chair, was a miniature library instead. James was very inventive. While the furniture pieces would have otherwise seemed outdated, James was able to bring new life into them. There was still a sense of movement and symmetry within the pieces which spoke to the precision of the artist. This exhibition evoked similar feelings within me that Mika Rottenberg’s show at the New Museum had, although starkly different in subject matter. I was left feeling disoriented and confused, questioning the entire space around me. I was still aware of what the materials were, but my entire perception of them and the broader scope of furniture was altered. James even showed a miniature version of the gallery space itself, which made it feel like I was looking in a reflection. It was very uncanny and Surrealist in nature and still felt interactive and tangible. It sort of reminded me of a dream of being trapped within another dimension.