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Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature

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Image: Michelle Stuart, Niagara Gorge Path Relocated, 1975. NTSC looping DVD, color, 36 min. © Michelle Stuart. Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects.

Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature
Santa Barbara Museum of Art Represents the Sole West Coast Venue

January 26 – April 20, 2014

December 5, 2013 – The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) represents the exclusive West Coast venue for a major exhibition of work by internationally acclaimed American artist Michelle Stuart.  A focused survey of the artist’s drawings and related works, Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature highlights the artist’s radical redefinition of the medium of drawing—a field of intense artistic and scholarly interest today. The exhibition is comprised of nearly 60 works spanning the period from the late 1960s to the present day. These works encompass a characteristically varied and unconventional range of media, underlining Stuart’s major contribution to the practice of drawing. 

Michelle Stuart, born and trained in California, has become celebrated for a rich and diverse body of work stemming from her lifelong interest in the natural world and the cosmos. Working in drawing, sculpture, photography, video, installation, and site-specific earthworks, she has pursued a subtle and responsive dialogue with nature and science. With an emphasis on organic materials and repetitive actions, Stuart’s oeuvre originates in particular in process-based sculpture of the late 1960s and the Land Art movement. During the 1970s she became known for her monumental drawings in which rolls of paper were smashed with rocks, stroked with earth, or rubbed with graphite until the characteristics of a given site became ingrained in its surface. These early frottage pieces capture the complexion of the site and act as indexical traces of the land.  Often, works were made directly in nature.  At SBMA, these wall scrolls are shown alongside Niagara Gorge Path Relocated (1975), a video documenting a 460-foot long drawing along the original site of the Niagara Falls.

Several works in the exhibition respond to well known mythic sites, notably the Nazca Lines, the Uffington White Horse, and New Mexican petroglyphs.  The drawing Moon (1969), is meticulously rendered from photographs taken at the lunar landing that year.  Also included in the survey are Stuart’s “rock books,” inculcated with earth and other materials from specific sites; “seed drawings,” grids of seeds collected in various places, which bleed into and transform their paper supports; and other site-specific works Stuart has done around the world.  The exhibition concludes with Stuart’s recent photographic grids, expansive works, which encapsulate the potent blend of “real history, imaginative history, and natural history” that has characterized her practice for over 40 years.

Michelle Stuart was born in Los Angeles.  After training at the Jepson Art Institute and Chouinard Art Institute, she worked as a topographical draftsperson, mapping the earth’s crust from Las Vegas to South Korea. In the 1950s, she traveled to Mexico to assist the muralist Diego Rivera and spent three years in Paris, before settling in New York City in 1958.  While living and working in NYC, Stuart has maintained a studio on the Pacific Coast from the 1980s to the present.

Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature was curated by Dr. Anna Lovatt, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Manchester, UK. It originated at the Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham, UK [on view February 16 - April 14, 2013].  It traveled to the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York [on view July 21 - October 27, 2013].  Accompanying the exhibition is a 160-page hardcover catalogue with essays by Anna Lovatt, Jane McFadden, and Nancy Princenthal, as well as an interview with the artist by Julie Joyce (SBMA Curator of Contemporary Art).

Related programs:

Sunday, January 26, 2 – 3:30 pm
Curators’ Perspective:  Anna Lovatt and Jonathan Fineberg
A rare opportunity to hear from two art historians/curators regarding their inspirations and ideas driving the concurrent solo exhibitions Michelle Stuart: Drawn from Nature and Alice Aycock Drawings: Some Stories are Worth Repeating.  Anna Lovatt, curator of the Michelle Stuart exhibition, is Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Manchester.  Jonathan Fineberg, curator of the Alice Aycock exhibition, is Gutgsell Professor of Art History Emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Adjunct Curator of the Parrish Art Museum.
Mary Craig Auditorium

Sunday, January 26, 3:30 – 4:30 pm
Book Signing: Michelle Stuart, Drawn from Nature
Michelle Stuart and Anna Lovatt, curator of the exhibition, will be available to sign copies of the beautifully produced monograph Michelle Stuart, Drawn from Nature (Hatje Cantz, 2013), which accompanies the traveling exhibition. This comprehensive overview, the first to survey her works on paper, demonstrates how Stuart re-conceptualized drawing itself in its materiality, possibilities, and within its many conceptual dimensions. The book also focuses on the artist's aesthetic investigations of personal and shared cultural histories and the nature of time measured within nature's substances.
Museum Store

All images © Michelle Stuart. Courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is a privately funded, not-for-profit institution that presents internationally recognized collections and exhibitions and a broad array of cultural and educational activities as well as travel opportunities around the world.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA.
Open Tuesday - Sunday 11 am to 5 pm, Chase Free Thursday Evenings 5 – 8 pm

Contact Information: 

Katrina Carl

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