Los Angeles–based artist Matthew Monahan has said that figurative drawing is the “core” of his practice—in graduate school in the mid-’90s, while his fellow students delved into video and installation, Monahan recalls, he wrestled with the question “How do you put a shadow under a cheekbone?”—and he is perhaps best known, especially to New York audiences, for his works on paper, which he exhibited at Anton Kern Gallery in 1997 and 2002. But Monahan is not an ironic neoclassicist blithely reanimating unfashionable forms; rather, his relationship to the depiction of the human figure is dead serious, even fraught. In an artist’s statement published in 1996, he wrote, “Two years ago I believed I could not draw, least of all the human face. No artistic task seemed more impossible. . . . I continued to draw out of frustration. What seemed simple to many, I carried out in a long trial of

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