Drawing Then at Dominique Lévy, New York

A celebration on paper 40 years after MoMA’s iconic Drawing Now

Forty years after The Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking show Drawing Now – which spotlit the US artists pushing their skills on paper during the previous decade – comes Drawing Then: Innovation and Influence in American Drawings of the Sixties. This exhibition (Wednesday January 27 to Saturday March 19), organised by Dominique Lévy Gallery, New York, features work by 40 artists, many of whom were shown in the original show, including Chuck Close, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha.

A number of the 70 works on show are for sale ($45,000-$2m), while others are on loan from institutions including MoMA and The Whitney Museum of American Art, or are from the private collections of artists such as Jasper Johns, Dorothea Rockburne and Vija Celmins.

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The exhibition begins with a selection of works by the German-born American artist Josef Albers, including Reverse + Obverse (1962), a linear image that came to influence the work of Ellsworth Kelly (whose work here includes Study for Red, Blue, Green, third picture), Dan Flavin and Agnes Martin, among many others. Wilderness II (1963/70) from Jasper Johns’ archive coexists with Cy Twombly’s Untitled, 1960 – an exuberant work in crayon and ballpoint pen – while the work of pop artists including Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselman and Roy Lichtenstein explores the language of commercialism and the burgeoning advertising age. Highlights include Warhol’s Heinz Tomato Ketchup with Campbell’s Soup Can (1962) and his iconic One Dollar, as well as Lichtenstein’s Ice Cream Cone (1963, first picture) – works that are satirical, often colourful and ultimately led to a kind of new American still life.

The show also includes two wall drawings – the first, by Sol LeWitt, is installed in the gallery’s high-ceilinged third-floor space for the first time since its debut in 1969. On the second floor, Mel Bochner’s Superimposed Grids from 1968 hang in an almost free-floating formation.

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Watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil works by Eva Hesse from the mid to late 1960s, along with Ed Ruscha’s vibrant Trademark [#3] (second picture) and Wayne Thiebaud’s Striped Necktie, round out the survey, while Barry Le Va’s six-part Bearings Rolled (Six Specific Instants; No Particular Order) is part work on paper, part interactive piece, and one that helped set the course for multimedia artwork for subsequent generations.

From feminism to the Vietnam War, the 1960s were a time of social and political upheaval, experimentation and innovation, and this certainly held true for drawing. Drawing Then promises to celebrate breakthroughs, from realism to conceptualism to abstraction.

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