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"Drawing Line into Form" at the Tacoma Art Museum

Works on paper by sculptors from the BNY Mellon Collection

"DRAWING LINE INTO FORM": Mark di Suvero, "Untitled (Study for Lady Day)," 1972. Mixed media on paper, 58 ?- 69 1/2 inches, Collection of BNY Mellon, © Mark di Suvero.

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The latest exhibition at Tacoma Art Museum, "Drawing Line into Form: Works on Paper by Sculptors from the BNY Mellon Collection,"explores the importance of drawing as a creative tool for sculptors.

The drawings in this show go far beyond studies for sculptures. In fact, there are few actually studies in the show. Most are two-dimensional works that stand alone regardless of their relationships to sculpture. They are, as a whole, damn fine drawings - strong, inventive and confident, and as good as anything by artists who work exclusively or wholly in two dimensions. There are drawings by up-and-coming artists and drawings by famous artists including Mark di Suvero, Richard Artschwager, Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Tony Smith, John Chamberlain, Jim Dine, Barbara Hepworth, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman and Henry Moore, which you may never get another opportunity to see (museums are not given to collecting drawings by sculptors, but the BNY Mellon collection specializes in it).

Even though the works in this show are called drawings, many are paintings in full color and in a wide variety of media.

There are a few figurative pieces or works that relate to the human figure, and there are a few architectural studies, but the vast majority of the works are abstract paintings with a decidedly edgy look.

"Senza Titola," mixed media by Mario Merz, is a fascinating little line drawing that looks like a flying saucer.

There's an atypical drawing in red ink and pencil on blue paper by Bourgeois. Also slightly atypical are two small oil on paper pieces by John Chamberlain. Famous for massive works made from crushed automobiles, his paintings in this show have a delicate touch.

Artschwager's "Corner with Parquet" is a drawing of the corner of an empty room with a parquet floor that does strange things with perspective. This and a majority of the drawings in this show look at the oddities of forms in space - an obvious concern of sculptors but of particular interest when depicted on a flat surface.

Martin Creed's "Work No. 1367" is a brilliant watercolor that reverberates with optical movement.

Di Suvero's "Untitled (Study fo Lady Day) is in many ways more impactful than his large steel sculptures. The same can be said for Joel Shapiro's "Untitled, Rome," charcoal on paper, a minimalist "V" shape like stacked metal bars with wonderfully black blacks and delicate grays.

I particularly like Al Taylor's untitled drawing in acrylic on newsprint that balances four oddly angled structures and two very large works by Jim Hodges, "Arena I" and "Arena II."

Curator Rock Hushka has done a terrific job of placement, grouping certain works by theme, such as a wall of architectural drawings including the Artschwager, a Urs Fishcher drawing of a room and Franz West's "Reminiszenz (Patentolurinoir)," gouache and collage on paper, which is another room drawing but which also functions as a delicately balanced abstraction; and by placing Paul Noble's "Mountain Sketch," a humorous homage to Henry Moore, next to two Moore drawings. He has also included next to many of the drawings photographs of sculptures by the same artists, many of which are public works installed in Washington state in places like the Olympic Sculpture Garden in Seattle and on the campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham.

TACOMA ART MUSEUM, "DRAWING LINE INTO FORM," THROUGH MAY 26, 10 A.M. TO 5 P.M. WEDNESDAY-SUNDAY, ADULT $10, STUDENT/MILITARY/SENIOR (65+) $8, FAMILY $25, 5 AND YOUNGER FREE, THIRD THURSDAYS FREE FROM 5-8 PM., 1701 PACIFC AVE., TACOMA, 253.272.4258, WWW.TACOMAARTMUSEUM.ORG

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