Amy Kaufman: b + w
November 10, 2012 – February 9, 2013
Exhibition and site-specific installation of large-scale charcoal drawings.
Amy Kaufman: b + w includes work from the past thirteen years in a wide range of content and scale. The works embody a delicate balance between order and disorder, motion and calm, and positive and negative space. Black and white is the common denominator among these drawings; within it, the related issues of concept, form and size are explored.
Unexpectedly, the limits of a reduced palette open a wide avenue of exploration. Kaufman uses charcoal on paper and says of the medium, “The messy immediacy of the charcoal moving across the paper makes it ideal for quickly expressing ideas. The contrast and simplicity of black and white, along with variations of grey in between, as well as the imprecise quality of the marks and the working of the charcoal into the paper, are the qualities that make this medium appealing.” Unlike hard-edged minimal abstraction, these drawings reveal imperfections (intentional or otherwise) and the unmistakable evidence of the artist’s mark.
Kaufman’s work is easily, but perhaps hastily, categorized as abstract. Although most of her current drawings are decidedly abstract, they have evolved from a representational practice. Works from the early and mid-nineties clearly reference the landscape: trees, branches, land and sky are easily discernable in these compositions. Over the years, Kaufman began to omit some of these references; the horizon line, tree trunks, the botanical details of sticks and the reference to the sky, ultimately reducing her images to simplified forms of dark and light and the ambiguous boundaries between them, thereby condensing nature to its most basic elements. And, while this distillation has led her further and further from her original references, her titles often hint at the drawing’s inspiration, whether botanical, scientific or literary.
Much of the work in b + w has been created for this exhibition, including Seabox, which echoes an earlier drawing. This ambitious site-specific installation represents Kaufman’s largest drawing to date and her first ‘surround’ piece. The large band of stripes seems to ebb and flow much like ocean waves. Kaufman says of this newest work, “I often work with blue, black and white; that the blue walls reinforce the water reference of the wavy lines is a convenient coincidence.”
To see Amy Kaufman’s work as merely lines, stripes or random patterns is to dismiss the subtle complexities of the drawings. Whether you see formal elements, or landscapes, seascapes, nautical knots and botanical forms, or the thoughtful composition and imperfect hand of the artist, these drawings resonate with time and offer a world of possibilities, both abstract and concrete.