Critics’ Picks

Floral Veins, and Conduits: 005 (detail), 2006.

Floral Veins, and Conduits: 005 (detail), 2006.

Los Angeles

Ernesto Caivano

Richard Heller Gallery
2525 Michigan Avenue B-5A
September 9–October 7, 2006

The intimate scale of Ernesto Caivano’s six-by-nine-inch drawings commands close scrutiny, and the delicate graphite and ink marks that compose these intricate works compound this demand, drawing the viewer closer still. The effect is almost oppressive in its intensity. Precedents for Caivano’s meticulous practice are not easily found in recent art. Nor, perhaps, are the most apposite points of reference to be located in the annals of fine art, though this is emphatically where Caivano’s drawings themselves reside. While Caivano’s fondness for building texture and indicating volume through the accumulation of fine, discrete lines recalls the prints and drawings of Albrecht Dürer, the graphic, illustrative quality of these drawings also evokes the more labored, pedestrian aesthetic of botanical studies found in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century illustrated encyclopedias, the primary purpose of which was to record clearly the physical characteristics of floral specimens. However, if Caivano’s drawings are studies of anything, the subject is not the natural world. Rather, these works are highly self-reflective essays on the process of markmaking, a form of intensive personal analysis reiterated by the fact that the drawings in this show are the latest in a long-standing, self-authored narrative entitled After the Woods. This is not to suggest that Caivano tacitly advocates the wholesale revival of fine draftsmanship in the age of multimedia. These drawings are, however, an effective argument against the presumed obsolescence of traditional media and methods and, perhaps more important, represent a cunning critique of the art world’s market-driven infatuation with gregarious formal innovation, an obsession that often conspires to marginalize more subtly inventive work.