While most exhibitions begin with art on the walls, each painting hung strategically in place, “Scrawl,” now on view at ArtSpace on Orange St., opened its doors as a room with blank walls.
The concept for “Scrawl” came from the Exquisite Corpse, a game played by Surrealists in the 1920s, Martha Lewis, education curator at ArtSpace, explained. The technique was originally applied to writing rather than drawing, but the concept is essentially the same. In the original version, participants circulated a piece of paper on which each player would write a word without seeing the one that come before. The end product was a collective sentence that often made little rational sense.
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The same is true for “Scrawl,” which instead incorporates individual works of art covering the different galleries of ArtSpace. The end product is an all-encompassing masterpiece, a work of art that constantly unfolds around the visitors.
Participating artists are given a portion of wall space, a Sharpie and few instructions. Their workspace sometimes peeks around corners, behind walls and onto the floor, with curtains separating the areas from one another. Except for the Sharpie-only limitation, artists are given absolute creative freedom within their spaces; all they have to do is make sure that their design will somehow connect with the work of the artist next door. But, like a traditional Exquisite Corpse, they won’t know what the other artist is drawing until they are both finished.
Until then, the gallery will have a constantly changing character. Since artists don’t have a set schedule or requirements, except to have their work completed by the last day, they all come in at different times to work on their individual part of the gallery. On any given day, it is a new exhibit.
Although “Scrawl” only opened on Wednesday, the walls of ArtSpace are already beginning to fill up. Most of the gallery is still blank, but some artists have begun to set up shop, bringing in ladders or mechanisms that create patterns on the walls.
“Scrawl” is a living space, based on the complexity and contradictions of individuality and collaboration. It encourages freethinking and imagination, while at the same time challenges its artists to give and take in order to create something completely different and new.
Participants agreed that their favorite part of the project is its large scale, which opens up a realm of possibilities for new experiences in their practice.
Lewis said that it allows for “embodied drawing” — creating art through the use of the entire body.
Artist Anna Broell Bresnick is using a drill as part of her materials. She has attached a sharpie to the top of the drill, and is using it to create a drawing of birds. She said that the vibration of the drill creates a unique texture, and makes for a very “gestural” final product with very active and “random” lines within the form.
“I’m going to go nuts with the drill, and I certainly can’t use this at home,” she said.
Another important aspect of “Scrawl” is that it is based on minimal materials. Artists are not allowed to glue things to their walls, though they are encouraged to use tape if they need it. Lewis said that she wants to see how much can come out of so little.
On March 26, the deadline for all artists, the curtains will be removed and the piece will be finally complete. Every space will connect with the others and in the end it will all come together as a mosaic of art, visions and perceptions.
“In some ways, the entire show is my work of art,” Lewis said.