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Natural History, 2009
Curated by: Alex Kitnick

36 Orchard St.
New York, NY 10002
November 22nd, 2009 - January 10th, 2010

east village/lower east side
Wed-Sun 10:30-6:30 and by appointment
mixed-media, installation, conceptual


In many ways, frottage seems the most passé thing. Its focus on the action of the hand, its close alliance with

pencil and paper and its interest in rubbing and touching all make it look a touch dated. Who does it anymore?

Who really did it ever?

That said, there are a number of qualities particular to frottage that make it of interest: its indexicality, its taint of

memory, the way it translates a thing into an image (like a rudimentary photocopier). Perhaps frottage’s

association with texture and tactility seems outmoded because, contrary to the smooth world of surfaces and

signs that has become our natural habitat, it searches out cracks and fissures and imperfections. In this way it

sheds light on overlooked interstices in our environment, even if it only offers them up again as artifacts and


This rather discreet artistic technique possesses a social and somewhat prurient double; frottage is also “the act of

rubbing against the body of another person, as in a crowd, to attain sexual gratification.”

The exhibition is organized around a specific, and simple, criterion – a way of making. From there, it branches

out in various directions. The exhibition contains works by artists such as Max Ernst and Henri Michaux – some

never shown before – who cherished frottage for its visionary capacities. It also includes new works by artists

such as Melanie Gilligan, Richard Hawkins, John Kelsey, Sam Lewitt and Scorched Earth. Where some of these

artists turn to frottage as a “wrong” technique, others come to it through an interest in drawing and mark

making. Still others are drawn to its relation to material things and their image.

This exhibition does not attempt to make a case for frottage against the images of the digital present. Rather, it

seeks to set our moment into relief, using the outmoded as its guide.