Celebrating Drawing / by Jeannine Cook

It used to be that drawing and drawing exhibitions were almost a rarity, not too many years ago. Now, wonderfully, it seems to be the opposite situation.

I thought about these contrasts when I read that Pat Steir, a pioneer in redefining drawing in America, is having a 25-year retrospective at the Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY. Pat Steir: Drawing out of Line was first shown at the Rhode Island School of Design and has just opened at the Neuberger, until mid-December. I remember seeing her huge wave drawings back in the eighties. Impressive in size and even more impressive in their energy and vigour, they were done on long rolls of paper attached together. Steir made her abstract, flowing marks almost in dance movements, using her whole body, to attain a powerful fluidity that was very individual. Yet there was something about this motion of the drawings that brought one back to Hokusai's waves, as if both artists were tapping into underlying forces of nature. Steir dared to do things differently and redefine what drawing was all about, whether it was later depicting waterfalls almost by force of sheer gravity, or returning to minimal line in her most recent work.

In another reminder of how important drawing has become to so many people today - just check out the Web for Internet-driven group drawing events such as Urban Sketches , SketchCrawl or Drawing Day 2010 - I read with amusement an article entitled "Naked All Night" in the September 2010 issue of American Artist. Like the Drawing Marathons run for a number of years by Graham Nickson at the New York Studio School, Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, NY, has apparently been running an annual Draw-a-Thon for the last 22 years, during which some 550 people turned up to draw for seven hours, all night. Seven drawing studios, six drummers, pizza and soda and lots of enthusiasm for artists of all stripes... and apparently about 200 people lasted through the whole night. That is an eloquent testimony to today's state of drawing, I'd say!