Sunday, March 01, 2009

On Paper

The crush of major art fairs is coming! Among them, my favorite is the Stanford L. Smith Works on Paper Show running through Monday at the Park Avenue Armory.

The materials an artist employs affect what she says, and paper brings out the lyrical impulse, the poetic, and the intimate. Ink, paint, charcoal, pencil, and the acts of mark making all change not just the surface of the paper, but the paper itself as it accepts the artist's marks. Stretched canvas projects a picture out into the room, creating a dramatic stage for the theater of the artist's imagination. Paper is used (or once was) for personal correspondence, for documenting life's achievements, births, deaths, weddings, for books, for newspapers, for menus, for sheet music, for money. Paper is in our hands everyday and nothing is quite as meaningful as a handwritten note from a friend, a unique object expressing a personal idea, intended just for you; no saved version on the hard drive, rejected drafts crumpled in the author's wastebasket. Art on paper inhabits this intimate touchability. It speaks in private, sometimes intense, whispers, right in your ear.

Exploring this most explorable of art fairs is like searching for just such a personal message from an artist. So many works, so many sizes, such intimate mark making, and then you see it, the message to you. It's signed and dated. You were very young when this message was sent out into the world, but it found its mark. There is a rush standing in front of an immense Titian canvas in a museum, overwhelming, transporting, a feeling experienced and shared publicly and from a distance. The private rush of realizing a work on paper speaks its secret message just to you is a thrill I associate with love and affection.

"Would you like to hold it? Bring it over into the light," I was asked.

Once in your home, the the work and its messages enrich your life; revealing its secrets over the course of a life time.

Many thanks, to Stuart Denenberg of Denenberg Fine Arts.

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