press release

Black Dragon Society is pleased to present a group show of work on paper by Bart Exposito, Joanne Greenbaum, Jonathan Lasker, Nick Lowe, Adrian Paules and Phil Wagner.

Automatic drawing is a century old concept pioneered by the surrealists and resurrected everyday by contemporary artists, computers, and bored teenagers alike. It is an art practice exercised to free oneself of aesthetic and moral constraints and to let the subconscious suggest its goings-on to the conscious. The art historical implications of automation are thus somewhat at odds with the definitions of automaton as “a self activating machine,” “someone who acts or responds in a mechanical or apathetic way,” or, simply, “robot.” The ambiguity around both denotations and connotations of Automatons presents the viewer of this exhibition with something of a theoretical oxymoron. By pointing to some automatic element, but not specifying weather its nature is surrealistic or robotic, whimsical or monotonous, the audience is asked to consider the work of six artists in a way that is anything but automatic.

Phil Wagner presents a series of charcoal drawings that explore the same techniques and composition through the act of repetition. By “practicing” his drawings, Wagner commits these compositions to muscle memory and, in so doing, exposes the flaws in the human machine, or, more accurately, exposes the human in the machine. The image—an appropriation of a photographed portrait of another artist in the show—creates a moment of self-referentiality in the exhibition that undemines the deliberance of the image selection by Wagner. Each drawing has been cut into thirty-five equal-sized squares, the pieces systematically shuffled and each picture collaged back together. The effect is a controlled automation, multiplied through repetition and oweing equally to chance and choice.

Jonathan Lasker’s works on paper are abstracted enough to avoid any spatial or representational logic, but maintain a familiarity that speaks of a codified language only he is privy to. Shapes, fields and relationships are demarcated within complex compositions, but the spontenaiety of the line keeps the viewer unsure of intention. The works on paper then act as maquettes for paintings which are essentially exact replicas—reproductions, if you will—of the initial drawings. Lasker’s hand thus works in a dual capacity, both as the marker of his subconcious and, after, as the enlarger that faithfully rerenders drawing into painting.

For this exhibition, Adrian Paules has presented a work that identifies itself quickly as a drawing. The familiar signifiers are all there: pencil, white computer paper, 8.5 x 11 inches. Carefully drawn with clear concentration and attention to details, the pattern--part plasma, part graffiti, part kaleidascope and part doodle—mirrors itself as the paper changes planes and folds into the third dimension. Occurring more than once, the result is less drawing than sculpture, the paper now an object with an activated surface. The direction and placement of the folds may appear random, but the reaction of the image to the surface’s shifts is anything but as Paules faithfully reverses the pattern that itself is an exercise in a controlled version of automatic drawing.

Bart Exposito’s charcoal lines swoop haphazardly one moment, then dutifully maintain perpindicularity the next. Abstract shapes overlap and fuse, colors denote space and hint at objectivity, voids open up between seams, all while his line recycles itself again and again. Working within a series, Exposito creates concise bodies of work that share rules with each other, but don’t necessarily follow them. Exactitude is countered by the arbitrary and the mechanical by the organic in these meditations on line and shape.

Nick Lowe works in multiple mediums, all with some degree of automation. In both of these pencil drawings, Lowe has appropriated found imagery. In “Temptation of Christ (after Memling),” Lowe explains his choice of Hans Memling’s painting, “because it was an old painting and there wasn’t anything special about it.” The only thing more automated than art about art is art about art for no particular reason. While representational through and through, moments in both pieces where Lowe has let the subconscious direct are obvious. Prismatic lines and sharp angles cluster together to create intense areas of abstraction that appear to be black holes of the artist’s time in what should have been a straightforward exercise in appropriation.

Too organic to be mistaken for technophilia, and too structured to seem subconscious, Joanne Greenbaum’s work treads a middle ground where rules seem to be made and broken in one stroke. In her choice of media as much as her shapes and colors, Greenbaum celebrates the childlike freedom of the scribble without sacrificing a matured complexity.

only in german

Automatic drawing

mit Bart Exposito, Joanne Greenbaum, Jonathan Lasker, Nick Lowe, Adrian Paules, Phil Wagner