The Menil Drawing Institute takes a historic look into the role of drawings in monumental forms.
Presented by the Menil Collection, the Dream Monuments: Drawing in the 1960s and 1970s exhibition addresses how artists have radically transformed the concept of a monument, moving beyond traditional ideas of commemorative forms or historical markers. “Drawing is a space for dreaming, allowing artists to explore both the possible and the impossible,” explains Rebecca Rabinow, director of the Menil Collection. “These works will challenge viewers’ beliefs, ideas and perceptions of their own environments.”
Utilizing the Menil Collection’s founders Dominique and John de Menil’s original vision and commissions for this exhibition, the curators have expanded the selection of artists from the 1960s and ’70s to include more women and artists of color who were exploring these topics as well. “With this exhibition, we are thrilled to bring to light one of the hidden gems of the de Menil archives,” says Kelly Montana, assistant curator at the Menil Drawing Institute. “Placing these historic, yet underknown, proposals in dialogue with other artists working in the same period will constitute a new foundation for interpreting this era of art history.”
Dream Monuments presents drawings that challenge the conventional idea of the monument as a permanent, grand or commemorative form. The provisional character of drawing helped artists envision forms in improbable scales and for impossible conditions, radically transforming the monument to have a new set of sensibilities. Scaled to the size of the page but enormous in ambition, these works rethink history.
“The timing of this show coincides with a moment when the world is examining what a monument is and what it should be, bringing new perspective to the initial vision for the exhibition,” says Rabinow. “The museum looks forward to exploring present-day conversations through online programming, which will be announced in the coming months.” On view May 21-Sep. 19, menil.org
Barbara Chase- Riboud, “Untitled” (1973, charcoal on paper), 29 inches by 20 1/2 inches “UNTITLED” PHOTO COURTESY OF BARBARA CHASE-RIBOUD, ©BARBARA CHASE-RIBOUD
“Barbara Chase-Riboud’s ‘Untitled,’ 1973, encapsulates one of the exhibition’s major themes for me: By turning to drawing, artists could express ideas about the monument difficult to capture in other media. Here, an assemblage of architectural fragments floats on a dense black field, its outer edges enveloped by the charcoal background. Ruins are often considered one category of monument. Chase- Riboud, through a virtuosic drawing technique, treats such relics as atmospheric and uncanny, as much of the world as of the mind.” –ERICA DIBENEDETTO, GUEST CURATOR
Michelle Stuart, “#7 Echo” (1973, graphite and ink on muslin-backed rag paper), 52 inches by 62 inches“#7 ECHO” ©MICHELLE STUART, THE MENIL COLLECTION HOUSTON, PURCHASED WITH FUNDS PROVIDED BY THE WILLIAM F. STERN ACQUISITIONS FUND, PHOTO BY PAUL HESTER
“As with many of Michelle Stuart’s drawings from the 1970s, ‘#7 Echo’ began by laying paper directly onto the ground and using a rubbing technique to transfer the pitted surface onto the sheet. She then took surrounding dirt and pulverized it into the paper. The result is a piece laden with earth that records the geological, historical and cultural traces upon land. For me, Stuart seems to suggest that there is much to be discovered in even the most modest plots of soil, a powerful riposte to the monumentality of much of the era’s Land Art.” –KELLY MONTANA, ASSISTANT CURATOR AT THE MENIL DRAWING INSTITUTE