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Drawing Sculpture

Story and Drawings by Gerald Burns

of A century of Sculpture in Texas, 1889 - 1989
at The Huntington Art Gallery at the University of Texas at Austin
June 15 - August 13, 1989
Published in Dallas Arts Revue #29 in July 1989

drawing of untitled sculpture by Jack K. Maxwell by Gerald Burns

Jack K. Maxwell, Abilene - Untitled, 1981
brass, aluminum, paint, ash, stainless steel and fabric
40 x 50 x 50 inches

In the 19th century Whistler and Wilde used to say art is useless. They were mistaken. You use sculpture by drawing it. The Century of Sculpture in Texas show at UTex's Huntington Art Gallery is eminently drawable. i went thinking I might be a little bored and found some marvelous models.

They stayed in place (except some that sparked and flickered) and in the inside hall at least weren't overlit. Luis Jimenez's End of the Trail, in the entrance hall, has so many flickering light bulbs that it's hard to see his acrylic buffalo-horned rider through the dazzle.

Inside the vista looks very straight, almost stuffy, till you walk around a little. It helps if you give yourself something to do. I usually have ink and paper on me, and look for things I'd like to draw.

drawing of Roy Fridge's The voyage of Initiation by Gerald Burns

Roy Fridge, Port Aransas
The Voyage of Initiation, 1984
mixed media - 43 x 10 x 118 inches
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. H. Irving Schweppe, Houston

The first to catch my eye was Roy Fridge's The Voyage of Initiation because it's so tall, and all verticals, and hence difficult to do. It looks, in fact, like an eight-foot bunch of sticks, but half of it is wood carved with great care to look like bones which look like sticks.

It's an antlered being in a boat floated on staves with a couple of birds on top. It took me two tries to get enough of it on my page, and even then I hacked it off at the base.

preliminary drawing of Jack K Maxwell's untitled sculpture by Gerald Burns

preliminary drawing of Jack K. Maxwell's untitled sculpture above

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Jack K Maxwell's Untitled is half bee, half hornet, about three and a half feet high. Its stinger starts as a wooden pole, slims to a smaller one, and ends as a thin metal rod, attached to the body by fine wires.

The wings are fine bluegreen muslin and the antennae are brass. You don't know until you start drawing a thing like this how complicated it is. It's all stuck together with little rivets, tabs and ties. The body is a marvelously carved and stained piece of wood, swelling like an Italian cheese tied with string.

Brass screw eyes lead a wire down the back like an outside spine. It's balanced on two aluminum pylons similarly riveted and clasped together, and the whole thing looks like a clipper ship gone insectile.

Getting the whole shape is again the problem ( I did a couple of ballpoint sketches just to begin to see how it all fits ), and then giving some indication of the hundreds of parts. It has more character than some others there, and reminded me of Tim Coursey's giant dragonfly in the Shell Atrium in Houston.

drawing of Jim Love's The Pedestrian sculpture by Gerald Burns

Jim Love, Houston - The Pedestrian, 1960
steel and cast iron - 13.25 x 10.75 x 10.75 inches
The Menil collection, Houston

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I was then attracted by a small piece by Jim Love, under glass, called The Pedestrian—just pipe, strap metal, a cast iron base. Its face plate is perfect, and all of it I thought was very economically attractive. It doesn't, in trying to look like a human, forget to try to look like scrap metal.

Gerald Burns drawing of Jose Luis Rivera's El Cucaracho sculpture

 Jose Luis Rivera, San Antonio - El cucaracho, 1981
mesquite - 24 x 10.5 x 5.5 inches
Collection of Cesar A. Martinez, San Antonio

It had a light coating of rust that pulled it all together and made me think I could knock it off as a line drawing. I did, and like the drawing in its way almost as much as the sculpture. So I tried Jose Luis Rivera's El Cucaracho, freestanding on a pedestal in a wood like maple stained to cherry.

The back is beautiful but a bit featureless for my line, so I attacked it from the belly. Fine antennae wrapping from the head all the way down, much squarer than you think till you try to draw it.

Though it's in low relief, the shadows matter so much for it that I had to put them in. I count it a kind of loss, drawing sculpture, to start putting shadows in. Sometimes you have to. 

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I got stuck that way with Linnea Glatt's Forum for a Family, upstairs level. It's four pure-white bowls stuck into slots in a very square low block. Not all squares are the same. Glatt's are squarer than other people's. Anyway I tried one with shadows and one without, and prefer it with shadows. In place it's so well lit I wonder if she helped.

Gerald burns drawing of Luis Jimenez's Old Woman with Cat sculpture 

Luis Jimenez, Hondo, New Mexico - Old Woman with Cat, 1969
acrylic on fiberglass - 40 x 24 x 25 inches
Collection of the University of Texas at El Paso
gift of the Frederick Weisman Company

I tried rendering Jimenez's Old Woman with Cat, but his acrylic surfaces are like half-chilled jello, in motion you look at them, so i just stand around and admire things like his Vaquero. The only horse more vertical is a Remington bronze called Mountain Man in the Harry Ransom Center's western section. Viewers are invited to compare.

Gerald Burns drawing of J. Michael Ciszek's Homage to the Egg sculpture

J. Michael Cizek - Homage to the Egg: The One That Got Away, 1988
found object assemblage, 17.5 x 16 x 13 inches

Having failed with Jimenez, I settled on J. Michael Cizek's Homage to the Egg, what seems a real ostrich egg empedestaled in a propped-open box decorated with nearly everything looking guadily Victorian. The side plumes are eggbeaters. Drawing a thing like that is firstly a test of stamina, and then of textures to make line imitate. Really they should be engraved on endgrain boxwood.

Gerald Burns drawing of Evaline c. Sellor's Sleeping Fawn sculpture  

Evaline C. Sellors (b. 1907) - Winter (Sleeping Fawn), 1947
limestone, 6.5 x 9.5 x 7 inches
Collection of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

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The same upstairs room has more small sculptures, including Evaline C. Sellor's Sleeping Fawn, that if I'd been told were an early Gaudier-Brzeska I'd've believed it. I've drawn Gaudiers, and drawing this 1947 piece (now in Forth Worth's Modern Art Museum) felt very like.

I went outside to see what I could find, and after getting mud on my shoe admiring Thana Lauhakaikul's Song of Yellowcake, a whole spaced out line of yellow oil drums making gloop, gloop sproink sounds in a drainage ditch, settled for Dave Deming's Pivotal Concorde, though the sun was too bright to see it well enough to draw.

Davd L. Deming, Austin
Pivotal concored, 1981
painted steel - 180 x 540 x 180 inches

It's large, so i thought to put in the tree and trash container behind it, and having gone that far sketched in the stairs, globbed lights and doors of the concert hall behind the tree. The biggest sport, sketching 3-D art, is indicating how big a thing is with the fewest lines. You can even show how heavy a thing is.

But on days like this, bright and windy, Cézanne used to hang a big rock from the center of his easel, just to paint at all. i weighted down my papers capped my ink, and came away.

 

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