New York

Rosemarie Trockel

Drawing exhibitions provide an artist with a singular opportunity: to present the inner workings of an inspiration, the seed of an idea or concept. Drawings and the act of drawing have served artists in different ways at different times. Nowadays, we have come to view drawings as maquettes for larger works, a game in which size and scale are given greater consideration than either eloquence or clarity. In the past, artists such as Eva Hesse and Joseph Beuys have been successful in extending the reach of their respective projects to include drawing; and more recently it could be said that Enzo Cucchi and Alighiero e Boetti have done the same. Still others—Nancy Spero and Cy Twombly, for example—have embraced the drawing as the most significant part of their oeuvre. Rosemarie Trockel is a young Conceptual artist who works within the frame of the poetic, making beautiful and often introspective objects. Like her fellow West Germans Katharina Fritsch and Gunther Förg, Trockel works within a number of seemingly disparate practices, including painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, and the works for which she is best known in America, her “knit paintings.” In this, her first solo exhibition in America, Trockel exhibited two sculptures and nearly 100 drawings.

Trockel’s drawings help us to ascertain the sum of her work’s parts—not an easy task. Although her objects have always held a certain fascination, they have not always made good use of their space in terms of resolution. What we get from Trockel's drawings is the feeling of an artist absorbing her artistic heritage—a map of her world, a little like a menu, really. These drawings suggest a never-ending litany of implication, as we see her assimilations of Beuys, Richter, Polke, Clemente, Salle, Nauman, even Kiefer. Her various gestures make us privy to an evocative vision of perennial, never-ending memory. Is she exorcising the demons of art's past in an attempt to transcend it, or is she yet another artist playing around with a post-Modern ideal? Trockel's art suggests a rite of passage. She seems to be working at double speed, as if she were somehow truing to make up for German culture's postwar torpor—to move it out of its collective guilt and amnesia to a brave new world of pride. Trockel may well be using the art of her forefathers so as to come to terms with the future of art for her country as well as for herself.

In Trockel's show, aside from the sketches on graph paper (which are actually production drawings for the computerized “knits”), the drawings and other works on paper do not appear to be model for larger projects but works that are supposed to stand on their own. Trockel's drawings are a mixed bag; they range from the highly gestural to the systematic. Some are wonderful; a couple have real power, like the ones in bright blues which suggest a female figure wallowing in the heat of some sexual obsession. Still, too many others are weak and seem devoid of meaning; a simple brushstroke on an empty page, for instance, says nothing. In terms of intention, these drawings just don't make the grade; they don't do enough to clarify either themselves or Trockel's vision. Although the two sculptures that were included here commanded a reaction, they seemed simultaneously irrelevant and over important in the context of this exhibition, almost as if they were installed at the last minute to make up for the drawings' shortcomings. The method of installation was static in a way that we have come to expect from this museum's ambitious though frequently unsuccessful Projects Series, of which this show was number twelve. Trockel should be lauded for choosing to show drawings as her first major exhibition in New York, rather than trying to make a grand statement, but the project fell short of our high expectation.

Christian Leigh