Critics’ Picks

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2000.

New York

“Drawing Now: Eight Propositions”

MoMA QNS - Museum of Modern Art
4520 33rd Street
October 17–January 6

In the catalogue accompanying “Drawing Now,” curator Laura Hoptman suggests that artists have turned away from process-oriented practices dominant since the ’60s to rehabilitate styles and traditions once considered hopeless culs-de-sac: ornament and decoration, commercial illustration, scientific draftsmanship, and so on. Eight categories, or propositions, make a cogent framework through which to view a diverse show, which brings together approximately 250 works by twenty-six artists from around the world. Though many are quite high-profile (Kai Althoff, Matthew Ritchie, Neo Rauch, etc.), Hoptman’s premise seems to foreground the relative outsiders (notably Paul Noble, whose gigantic pencil drawings of a dystopic British town skirt the edge of twee on their way into truly creepy territory). We’re also offered an angle on artists known primarily as painters: Laura Owens’s drawings—smaller and, for the most part, simpler—pare a visual lexicon down to its elements. John Currin’s pot-bellied nymphs look even more compromised and zombified in black-and-white cross-hatching on brown paper, but these renderings expose an underlying integrity: It’s like seeing the girders of a building whose facade has been stripped away. Subtending Hoptman’s eight propositions is a ninth, implicit one: that contemporary artists have recuperated drawing’s relationship to neurotic virtuosity, compulsively exquisite mark-making, and elaborate, self-generated internal worlds.