Critics’ Picks

Barry Le Va, untitled, 1968, ink and collage on graph paper, 8 x 11".

Barry Le Va, untitled, 1968, ink and collage on graph paper, 8 x 11".

Munich

“Line and Space: American Drawing and Sculpture Since 1960”

Pinakothek der Moderne
Barer Straße 40
July 27–September 25, 2011

For all intents and purposes, “Line and Space: American Drawing and Sculpture Since 1960” revisits a familiar history, assembling an impressive array of Minimal and Conceptual works by artists including Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, James Turrell, and Robert Smithson, with many pieces on public view for the first time. It is thus a testament to this gem of a show that it manages to recast this largely well-known pantheon in such a fresh and provocative light.

Taking the schematic drawing as its point of departure, the exhibition expertly traces the tension between proposed ideal form and its realization across a broad range of practices. By and large, this trajectory has been canonized as the pristine logic of “singular forms sometimes repeated,” a useful if overly rigid framework overshadowed by the impassive geometry of Judd and LeWitt. But under delicate scrutiny, the assembled drawings unravel this narrative into a wonderful openness, a looseness that emphasizes the sheer materiality of each endeavor. Perhaps a minor insight, but it activates familiar objects in new ways: For instance, the negative volumes of Fred Sandback’s works seem to ripple against his ghostly markings, and the industrial polish of Judd’s boxes seems less hermetic next to his crude and sloppy doodles.

There are some great additions to the history, such as Jennifer Bartlett and Charlotte Posenenske, but the real standout here is Barry Le Va, who elevates the schematic to an ontological stance. A solo room offers a rich cross section of his practice, from his mixed-media scatterings that explore the role of chaos in organized systems, to his intricate blueprints. A small drawing on graph paper from 1968 perhaps best captures the crux of the exhibition, juxtaposing a few sharp lines against a seemingly engulfing black ink blob. This is less about imposing a rigid order than tracing the first gestures of a world tenuous in its becoming. It is a poignant plight that resonates clearly, like a finely tuned string.