Not the catchiest title perhaps, but Kupferstichkabinett is certainly a memorable show. Referring to the collections of the German aristocracy which in turn lead to the more accessible print and drawing rooms in museums, this show draws on the past to prove that drawing is very much alive and kicking in contemporary art.
Set up like a museum, with works densely hung on dark green walls, the show turns the White Cube into a museum of modern drawing, exploring its pivotal role in the practices of such artists as Luc Tuymans, Tracey Emin, Bruce Nauman, Lucian Freud, Anselm Kiefer, the Chapman brothers and Rachel Whiteread amongst others.
Drawing is probably the most accessible of artforms in terms of public reading. The exhibition reveals itself in sections exploring the use of drawing in different aspects of an artist's practice, such as a tool to create and refine ideas, an exploration of the figure, a more technical treatment of forms and structures, a creation of fantasy, and an investigation of drawing’s relationship to the photographic image.
The exhibition explores the wider approach to mark making, proving that while most people can pick up a pencil (or a pen, or an etching needle), there’s an infinite array of ways in which they’ll use it. Tracey Emin uses text in her monoprints whereas Chuck Close will use up to eighty colours in his kaleidoscopic screenprints. There are studies by Patrick Caulfield revealing the process for later paintings, while Raquib Shaw uses acrylic along with enamel, pencil, rhinestones and glitter for some showy final pieces.
Among the more abstract uses of the medium, Ernesto Caivano’s CT-3 sends beams of multicoloured geometric patterns across the page. The portrait features in Michael Landy’s meticulous and haunting graphite faces, while Lucien Freud takes up the etching needle for some typically intricate and considered portraits.
Despite its density and variation, Kupferstichkabinett manages to retain a sense of harmony. There’s such an array of artists here as to make listing them all pointless; this is a show to be considered, absorbed and enjoyed in repeated visits.
-- Laura Bushell
Images Courtesy White Cube