Wax Bloom

S.G. Chipman's Drawing Blog

Wax Bloom

“Portraiture Now” Exhibit

November 19th, 2012 · No Comments

On Saturday, a friend and I went downtown to the National Portrait Gallery to check out the recently opened Portraiture Now: Drawing on the Edge exhibit.

My first impression: holy crap these folks work big! Every artist in the exhibit with the exception of Rob Matthews works at a massive scale, with pieces stretching nearly from floor to ceiling. This painting by Till Freiwald is 5×6′, and if you can believe it – is watercolor. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen watercolors employed this way, with such opacity while retaining such wonderful translucency. The photograph linked really doesn’t do the painting justice – I think I stared at it from multiple viewing distances for at least ten minutes.

The flip side of that would be the aforementioned Rob Matthews, who was represented at the exhibit with a series named Kindred, a collection of very small, highly technical graphite drawings of his friends and family. Each piece was around 9×9", with a 7×7" drawing framed in a circle in the center of the paper. I was really blown away by the level of detail Mr. Matthews achieves with these drawings and, based on the artist’s statement on the wall proclaiming each work takes roughly 60 hours to complete, I imagine the muscles in his drawing hand must be completely impervious to cramping. My favorite piece of his was a self portrait existing on both sides of a piece of paper, representing a view standing in front of the subject, as well as behind. Very clever.

Another fascinating take on portraiture came from Ben Durham, who’s large scale graphite portraits are actually, upon closer inspection – hand written text. And not lorem ipsum or nonsense, but made up of anecdotes, thoughts, and details about the subject. A collection of these works are here, though the scale of the photos don’t allow you to see the text, unfortunately.

Lastly, and the work I was most looking forward to seeing, were Mary Borgman’s gigantic charcoal portraits. This piece, entitled Portrait of Alex Quatrano was especially striking and powerful. Ms. Borgman stood in stark contrast to Mr. Matthews in terms of technique, being on absolute opposite ends of the “tightness” spectrum, with Ms. Borgman practically attacking the paper with strokes and stabs of charcoal, eraser, chamois cloth, her fingers and who knows what else, but all combining into stunningly personal and vividly realistic pieces at impressive scale.

All in all, a great show – other artists were represented, but the above four stood out for me. The exhibit runs until August 2013, so do go if you have the opportunity.

Tags: Thinking Out Loud

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

Comments will be sent to the moderation queue.