MCA Denver: William Stockman

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In Human Scale

Looking for the Face I had before the world was made
by Terry Talty
January 29, 2010

William Stockman drawings at Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Drawings by William Stockman in the paperworks gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.  Photos:Terry Talty
DENVER, COLORADO - Like pages from a journal as big as my arm's span drawings hung from pushpins in the paper works gallery of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. Each page was a sparse scene of people in action: a man in a small boat reaching into water for fish, a woman with her hands stretched out on a string of twinkling lights. The activity was depicted simply, with more interest in creating atmosphere than comic-book reality. The date was stamped into the thick drawing paper so that its colorless existence took a little discovering, but made me start thinking of journals, newspapers and other ways we make marks on paper to describe the day. And tomorrow, describe the next day.

It never seems like much at the time - what happens in a day - but when these days are put together it could be amazingly rich. Particularly if they are drawing, and enormous.

The images William Stockman pulled out from 2009 to put on the walls of the Contemporary are enormous. Stockman's drawings are one part of the 6-part exhibition called Looking for the Face I had before the World was Made that opened January 29, 2010.

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver O'Grady, Lorraine
Small, intimate gallery painted black sucks up light and makes for long exposures with the photographs of Lorraine O'Grady.

Coming from being intensely focused on photographs hanging on the black-painted walls of another part of this exhibition, I walked into the Paper Works gallery expecting the past show, which was full of medium values of blue and gray and mixed materials. The new whiteness of the space surprised me. I was struck by the beauty of the giant pieces of creamy white drawing paper hanging by black binder clips from push pins.

I could see paper envy in the eyes of my two friends. These are big sheets of expensive, thick, pudding-smooth paper. And the drawings are just black marks and some grays made by erasing. It is easy to imagine that more could be done with that much rag real estate. 'Yeah, I might have kept going,' said one of my companions about one very ethereal drawing. 'I like the sparseness,' said someone else in the gallery, and much later another person in our group said that this particularly minimal drawing, which he called 'the shadow people with the halos on their heads,' was his favorite one of the drawings.

Exhibition at MCA Denver William Stockman
Natural light streams into the upstairs galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. These drawings are hung from black binder clips (office supply materials). Then on of the arms is slung over a push pin in the wall. Brilliantly simply and pretty safe for the paper.

It took a long time of looking for me to get over the idea of such nice paper being paired with just so few expressive lines. I left the gallery with my friends and their paper envy, but knew I wanted to go back. We all did. On the second trip I'd accepted the austerity of the works. When we discovered the dates on each one, the idea of keeping a vivid, enormous, graphic journal struck me as such a beautiful life documentary. Awe-struck me, like the cave paintings at Lascaux.


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This page contains a single entry by terry published on January 31, 2010 7:40 PM.

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