Basel

View of “Marlene McCarty,” 2020. Background from left: “14” (2), 2014; “14” (4), 2014. Foreground: Into the Weeds, 2019.

View of “Marlene McCarty,” 2020. Background from left: “14” (2), 2014; “14” (4), 2014. Foreground: Into the Weeds, 2019.

Marlene McCarty

Kunsthaus Baselland

There is a craft to the installation of exhibitions. When unpacking large paper works that have been transported rolled, gallery staff lay them out on flat, clean surfaces for some days, to let the fibers of the paper relax, before preparing them for hanging. When the art installers performed this familiar ritual at the Kunsthaus Baselland, a murmur of surprise went up. Reproductions do not communicate the force of Marlene McCarty’s drawings. In the JPEGS that are now the dominant medium for viewing art, her drawings in graphite and ballpoint pen look like accomplished, almost vernacular illustrations, black and blue and earnest as denim. Confronted face-to-face, they carry the same charge as ambitious abstract painting.

To give an example: In the enormous drawings that open the show, “14” (2) and “14” (4), both 2014, the hair of a sleeping woman cascades over the sheet. In reproduction,

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