A Paper Trail
Scattered on a studio floor, tacked above a desk, bound in small books or stored in archival drawers, an artist's work on paper has always been of particular interest to me. Follow my gallery wanderings and studio visits to discover unique works on paper.
Old School at the Armory….
The early November IFPDA Print Fair in New York is always a favorite for a works on paper hound like me. Printed matter, old and new, is presented chock-a-block in the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street and runs the gamut from woodblocks to cutouts in a timeline that spans five centuries.
The big guns – Warhol, Close, Katz, Cottingham and others – claim prime wall space with hefty price tags reflecting an increasing dominance of contemporary sales in the print market. The familiar Diebenkorn “Ocean Park” pieces, a suite of Louise Bourgeois’ etchings at Galerie Boisserée and a boyish Mapplethorpe multiple by Elizabeth Peyton made up my imaginary wish list predictably quickly.But this time around, it was the unassuming work of Paul P. and Gunnar Norrman that held my interest, slowly revising my choices in a field of favorites. In a familiar sea of cleverness and cutting edge printing technique, the small works of Norrman and Paul call attention to their craft – a draftsman’s mastery of line and the exquisite play of light and shadow on their subject matter.
Canadian-born Paul P. is best known for his evocative portraits of young, gay men as well as his more recent atmospheric landscapes. The small editions of his etchings at Poligrafa recall Whistler – brooding observations of foreign cities and portraits of friends, tenderly observed.
The late Gunnar Norrman, a Swede who was an avid gardener and accomplished pianist in addition to being a skilled draftsman, used conté crayon, pencil and drypoint to create a breathtaking body of work in his lifetime. Whether observations made at a cool distance or details scrutinized with the eye of a botanist, Norrman’s drawings of the natural world are some of the best I have seen.
As Ken Johnson put it in his New York Times review of this wonderfully rich but clearly contemporary-heavy fair – here “the old is more refreshing than the new”. With an obvious debt to “old” masters exhibited – Munch, Cassatt, Whistler and others – the work of Norrman and Paul P. holds its own, making old school look surprisingly new.