Jackson Mac Low “Lines–Letters–Words”

The Drawing Center

poster for Jackson Mac Low “Lines–Letters–Words”
[Image: Jackson Mac Low "Skew Lines, March" (1979) Pen on paper, 11 x 14 in. Collection of Anne Tardos.]

This event has ended.

In Jackson Mac Low: Lines–Letters–Words, The Drawing Center will present the first solo museum exhibition of visual works by Jackson Mac Low (1922–2004) that span the multidisciplinary artist’s practice from the 1940s to the 2000s. Tracing the arc of his creative output, specifically through the lens of drawing and handwriting, this exhibition will provide a new understanding of Mac Low’s oeuvre outside of the world of poetry.

Curated by Brett Littman, Executive Director.

Mac Low began drawing in his early teens and continued to create visual work throughout his life.

Through drawing, Mac Low experimented with chance procedures and automatism, allowing form and process to shape content before these themes entered his poems. The earliest drawings in the exhibition, created in the late 1940s and early 1950s, consist of pre-linguistic marks made with gestural ink brushstrokes that resemble Roman and Japanese characters. Works from the 1960s through the 1990s include series of drawings that emphasize the visual and aural qualities of written language, acting as both graphic representations and performance scores. Fusing letters and words in the Drawing-Asymmetries and later Vocabulary series, Mac Low transformed discrete characters into sometimes unreadable pictographic landscapes. The equally visual Gathas, which consist of individual letters drawn omnidirectionally on graph paper, function as performance scores. The bands of color visible in the rarely performed Skew Lines series also serve as scores for vocalized actions. A series of thirteen observational drawings made in 1995 echoes the unsettled system of marks in Mac Low’s early works, returning the artist to a visual form that is more purely grounded in drawing rather than in text or performance.

The Drawing Center, through Jackson Mac Low: Lines–Letters–Words, identifies drawing as a foundational medium—one that significantly informed Mac Low and influenced his multidisciplinary practice for more than sixty years.

Born in Chicago in 1922, Jackson Mac Low was the author of thirty-one books of poetry and included in more than ninety collections of poetry. Creating drawings in tandem with poetry during his seven-decade-long career, Mac Low collaborated with arts organizations as a means to explore digital media and installation, including a residency at the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1969 and as part of the exhibition Sound at PS1 at PS1 Contemporary Art Center (now MoMA PS1) in 1979. Mac Low was the subject of a 2012 solo exhibition at Galerie 1900–2000 in Paris. In 2013, Mac Low’s work appeared as part of a group exhibition at the Museo Reina Sofía; his work has also been included in several group exhibitions in New York, including shows at The Museum of Modern Art, Marianne Boesky Gallery, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (with writer, poet, and collaborator Anne Tardos), and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.



from January 20, 2017 to March 19, 2017

Opening Reception on 2017-01-19 from 18:00 to 20:00

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