Abraham & Wolff is driven by the desire to promote greater freedom in the encounter and discovery of works of art. The drawing cabinet, with its furniture and drawings in open access, fully embodies this philosophy. It offers enthusiasts a selection of drawings, inviting them to search directly in the drawers to make their discoveries. These drawings, which are not framed, are easy to handle and consult, encouraging a tangible and personal exploration of the collection. Constantly enriched by novelties, this varied collection awaits collectors and curious passers-by.
Born in Le Havre in 1927, Colette Brunschwig was about twenty years old when she moved to Paris in 1945 to study painting. Marked by a conflict she had lived through in hiding and by the trauma of the Shoah, she did her apprenticeship during the immediate post-war period, which was akin to a “year zero” for artists confronted with the scale of the catastrophe. Like many surviving Jewish intellectuals with whom she would maintain links – Emmanuel Levinas, whose seminars she followed, the Hellenist Jean Bollack, who frequented her studio and with whom she corresponded, and Paul Célan, whose poetry she would later illustrate – Colette Brunschwig sought to overcome and transcend the annihilation.
Sensitized to the problems of abstraction by André Lhote (1885-1962), whose teaching she followed from 1946 to 1949, the artist found in abstract painting a possible path and even a logical end, namely the culmination of the trends at work in impressionism and cubism. Her reflection led her from Monet (1840-1926) to Malevitch (1879-1935), from the Water Lilies to the White Square on a White Background, from the dissolution of forms to the total abolition of the image and of all representation. At the end of the 1960s, she discovered the painting of ancient China, the works of scholar painters such as Wang Wei (701-761), Mi Fu (1051-1107) or Shitao (1641-1719), whose fundamental relationship to writing she admired, as well as the aesthetic and philosophical conception of emptiness (understood not in opposition to the full, but in a complementarity between form and formlessness).
Linking Jewish metaphysics, modern abstraction and oriental thought of nothingness, the work of Colette Brunschwig occupies a singular place in the abstract avant-garde. If the artist initially feels close to lyrical abstraction, attracted by the possibility of an art that approaches writing, the production of signs, she will refuse the immediacy of the gesture to introduce into her work a temporal dimension, a game of superimpositions, accumulations and repetitions through which the form emerges. Each gesture covers or extends another. Hashes, strokes, washes, stencils are added in layers, giving birth to depths, to this “third dimension” dear to the artist. The techniques intermingle: Indian ink, acrylic, watercolor, gouache, oil. Recurring motifs emerge, fade away: circles and rectangles structuring the space without any question of geometric composition. All this in a palette that has never excluded color but has often preferred black and especially gray in all its shades.
Work with share, in margin of the other currents. But not isolated in the century, as evidenced by the companionship that linked the artist to Pierre Soulages (1919-2022), André Marfaing (1925-1987), Pierre Courtin (1921-2012), Árpád Szenes (1897-1985), Etienne Hajdu (1907-1996) or Charles Maussion (1923-2010). First exhibited in 1952 at Colette Allendy, Colette Brunschwig has been accompanied by several generations of Parisian galleries throughout her career, including Nane Stern, La Roue, Clivages, Convergences and Jocelyn Wolff.
Abraham & Wolff’s drawing room offers a selection of works from 1950 to 2012, showing the consistency and unity of his work.
Closely linked to the history of modern architecture, the work of Isa Melsheimer (born in 1968) has for many years questioned the ideological vision of nature and human existence that underlies the achievements of modernist architects.
Continuing her important work as a ceramist, the artist creates gouaches that depict buildings whose deserted surroundings sometimes see wild animals and enigmatic silhouettes emerge. Her iconography draws from the architectural projects of Claude Parent, Michael Graves, Carl Fingerhuth, Owen Luder or Balkrishna Doshi, whose constructions she reproduces from images gleaned from publications, press clippings or the Internet. Drawing after drawing, Melsheimer pays homage to the stylistic audacity of modernity while at the same time underlining its failures through the omnipresence of concrete, the king material that has become the symbol of an architecture that failed in its quest for progress.
These images, the artist enamels them with references and innuendos to the history of modernism but also to clothing fashion or mass culture. She thus elaborates representations that are both pessimistic and light, leading us to reflect on our relationship to the living space, the place we occupy in it and the place we leave to the rest of the living. She gives us a glimpse of a disturbing future where we seem to have disappeared, victims of an ultimate crisis, and where only buildings whose utopian ideals are long gone remain as a testimony of our passage.
Oswald Oberhuber (1931-2020), a leading figure on the Austrian art scene, found his first inspiration in the informal art of the post-war period, of which he was one of the co-founders in Austria. At the turn of the 1950s, he produced abstract sculptures in plaster and bronze in which the expressiveness of the material and the spontaneity of the gesture prevail. In 1956, the artist broke with this work and declared that “permanent change” would henceforth be the watchword of his artistic practice as well as a maxim of life. From then on, in a constant effort to unlearn and start again from scratch, he will not cease to engage his work in recurrent transformations, seizing all mediums and passing from one style to another throughout his career. Conceptualism, realism, Pop-influenced paintings, assemblages and collages, political posters, the ideas follow one another, the artist creates image upon image, object upon object, with the common thread of the negation of aesthetic and social norms.
But the importance of Oswald Oberhuber is not only measured by this abundant and rebellious work. A tireless gallery owner and prolific exhibition organizer, he has led more than 600 projects, some of which have been important innovations in contemporary Austrian art. As a professor and rector of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, he also had a significant influence on the cultural and educational policies of his country, shaping the artistic practices of several generations.
Oberhuber’s international recognition came in the form of his participation in the Venice Biennale in 1972, Documenta 6 (1977) and Documenta 7 (1982), and the São Paulo Biennale in 1983.
Abraham&Wolff are pleased to exhibit in collaboration with the KOW Gallery in Berlin a selection of drawings whose very diverse inspirations and styles bear witness to the free temperament of their author.
Laura Lamiel (born in 1948) is best known for her poetic installations in the form of delimited spaces in which materials and objects charged with emotional resonance are arranged according to an enigmatic logic, but she has maintained a practice of drawing throughout her career.
Some of them have recently appeared in the artist’s installations, first in tension with other objects, then more independently. The development of a piece entitled Forclose (2018) was notably the occasion for Laura Lamiel to elaborate a series of motifs whose production she describes thus: “I decided to unfold this piece (Forclose) and I started to make drawings that took on their autonomy. I made them, for several months, late at night. I had the energy, but I had to wait for it to arrive, I had to have the right gesture. I prepare the inks and the papers, and then there comes a moment in the night when it’s right, I can go, and it can last two or three hours. I started to draw a whole vocabulary of languages; I rushed through sheets of paper, smearing them with lipstick, opening my mouth, making heads, rhizomes, plants come out.” (Interview with François Piron, in LL, Paris, Paraguay Press, 2019). It emerges a certain violence of this impulsive set also constituted by lungs, hands, faces taken in interlacing features. A violence that is accentuated by the systematic use of a red ink that evokes the energy of blood.
This asceticism of work, the artist had already practiced in a series of large circular drawings exhibited in 2013 as part of the exhibition Ostinato, dessin, musique : interactions, in Namur. They take the form of myriad pen strokes ritually aligned to form concentric circles. Entitled 3 years, 3 months, 3 days, in reference to the traditional duration of the retreat that aspiring lamas must make in Thibetan Buddhism, these drawings resemble spiritual exercises based on repetition (such as the recurrent chanting of the sacred syllables of the Buddhist mantra Om mani padme hum).
A third series of works entitled W’s Eyes shows pairs of eyes emerging from a haze of black crosshatching. These eyes that Laura Lamiel calls “owl eyes” are part of a research on the theme of the double, the W can indeed be read as the letter V accompanied by its symmetrical reflection – just as the artist’s initials, LL, can evoke this eminently problematic question of reflection and double. They were exhibited in installations deployed in 2019 at the CRAC of Sète, installations that exploited the games of reflections and occultation of one-way mirrors.
These drawings by Laura Lamiel are exhibited in collaboration with the Marcelle Alix gallery (Paris).
“What we do comes from life, art always remains in life, it is a contribution to life.” – Katinka Bock
Katinka Bock (born in 1976) is an important artist on the international art scene, living and working in Berlin and Paris.
Using a wide variety of media (sculptures, films, photographs, artists’ books, or installations…), materials (such as clay, stone, wood, bronze, plants, water, etc.), and techniques (folding, rolling, molding, marking, making an imprint, finding a balance, overturning…), Katinka Bock has been developing since the beginning of the 2000’s an artistic practice that is intimately linked to the issues of space, time, and materials.
Her works take shape in an architectural, urban, social, temporal and environmental context that marks them and that they mark in return. Anxious to make perceptible the particularity of the places in which she intervenes, the work is never for Katinka Bock an end, but a vehicle that leads us to experience time and space. By conceiving works in immediate relation with the latter, she plunges us, with discretion, into the heart of an intimate and poetic journey, which carries us through the history, customs and symbols of a territory.
Inspired by feminist and protest struggles, the work of Miriam Cahn (born 1949) draws its energy from the anger and indignation felt in the face of violence and injustice. The war in the former Yugoslavia, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the refugee crisis, gender inequality, and violated bodies of women around the world are all events and realities that the artist confronts, giving rise to impulsive, vehement works (paintings, drawings, and photographs) created through an energetic process that engages her entire body.
Her very personal iconography is haunted by the themes of sex, power, violence, death and their complex relationships. The representation of the body conceived as a place for the exercise of power occupies a central place. Ambiguous, grotesque, ghostly, the bodies represented by Miriam Cahn display raw and uncompromising nudity. They stare at us from the canvas, smile at us in a disturbing way, exhibit their genitals, give or receive blows, all thrown into schematic landscapes, in undecided situations, endowed with an irradiating and enigmatic presence.
While Miriam Cahn has developed a practice of oil painting over the past several years that exploits the expressive potential of color in monumental works, drawing has always been central to her work, beginning with her earliest works in the late 1970s. Our drawing cabinet houses a selection of works produced between 1980 and 2019. We find the same energy that inhabits the large drawings made with black chalk on highway pillars in 1979, the use of vibrant and electric colors characteristic of her paintings today, recurring motifs such as faces with empty eyes or sexual acts taking the form of violent struggles, works born from her visit to Sarajevo in the early 90s, while the city was still under siege, architectural tracings, landscapes, finger-drawn representations that evoke cave art, but also polyptychs and unexpected works that reveal a little-known side of Miriam Cahn’s work.
The duo Prinz Gholam (born 1969) and Michel Gholam (born 1963) has developed a performance practice over the past 20 years in which both artists use their bodies to reinterpret various cultural references ranging from ancient paintings to sculpture, contemporary art, cinema and media images. These cultural stereotypes are internalized and embodied by the two men through precise choreographies during which they execute a succession of carefully chosen poses, moving like sculptures in motion.
Each of these performances gives rise to the creation of videos, photographs and drawings. The latter are conceived as fields of experimentation that participate in the elaboration of the performances while extending them in another form.
Especially created for the Punta della Dogana on the occasion of the group exhibition “Dancing with myself” (08/04 – 16/12/2018), the performance entitled “Similitude” more or less directly summons historical and artistic references drawn from Venetian history but also from the exhibition itself. Its development was accompanied by the creation of a series of large drawings on paper. Done in colored pencil, they show the duo in various poses borrowed from works by Giandomenico Tiepolo and John Singer Sargent, from Igor Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress or from a bas-relief in St. Mark’s Basilica. The choreographic fragments that are thus elaborated are inscribed in representations of Venice and the Punta della Dogana.
Franz Erhard Walther
The creator of a fundamental work at the crossroads of minimalism and conceptualism, Franz Erhard Walther revolutionized the traditional approach to sculpture by introducing a participatory dimension into his practice. Developed between 1963 and 1969, his major work, 1. Werksatz, is composed of 58 fabric objects designed to be manipulated by spectators who become users. Through the manipulation of these objects, users are invited to experience new interactions, new sensations, to become aware of the time and space in which the activation takes place, to establish in short another form of relationship with others and with the real world.
Walther was the first user of the 1. Werksatz pieces, and thus the first to experience them. This confrontation with his work was documented by the artist in a crucial set of Werkzeichnungen (working drawings). Originally conceived as a private diary, the Werkzeichnungen take the form of two-sided diagrams in which Walther records his experiences during each activation (a drawing is therefore always linked to a specific object). In order to transcribe his feelings and the effects produced by the manipulation, the artist has elaborated a language that is both pictorial and scriptural, which unfolds on the back and front of the sheet, the two sides interacting with each other. Writing occupies a determining place in this work of expression. Walther invented a terminology that is still used today to describe the works.
Each activation constituting a unique event, producing sensations specific to the place, the moment and the partners, the Werkzeichnungen were reiterated in the course of successive activations. They positively testify to the practical effectiveness of the participatory concept behind 1. Werksatz, namely the possibility for each user to have an experience of his own.
Rarely exhibited at first, these drawings were gradually shown to the public to become today inseparable from the elements of 1. Werksatz.
Francisco Tropa (born in 1968) is the creator of a universe of his own, unfolding through complex installations that evoke themes such as the body in movement, time, death, play and archaeology. These installations are made up of mysterious objects that the artist elaborates at the crossroads of multiple artistic, historical, literary or philosophical references, which feed an original reflection turned towards the problems that cross the history of sculpture from Antiquity to our days. Combining conceptual thinking with traditional know-how, Francisco Tropa’s creations employ a wide range of media and techniques, from watchmaking to casting, from blown glass to video, and from painting to various printing and engraving processes.
The drawing room houses works as diverse as abstract etchings, rubbings reminiscent of Max Ernst’s (1891-1976) experiments, drawings and silkscreens inspired by medieval cosmography and the architectural utopia of Paul Scheerbart (1863-1915), as well as silkscreened boxes. So many works that testify to a constantly renewed inspiration.
William Anastasi (born in 1933) has built up a body of work that is fundamental to the formation of conceptual art, while remaining a separate figure in this movement. From 1963 to the present day, he has elaborated multiple protocols of blind drawings: the Blind Drawings or Unsighted Drawings. As diverse as they are, these protocols have a single goal: to allow the artist to remove himself from any artistic technique, from any aesthetic reference and, if possible, from his own consciousness.
Each of these protocols aims to automate more or less rigorously the artist’s gesture. The Walking Drawings series, which is one of the artist’s earliest works in this field, is a case in point. It was initiated in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, before Anastasi moved to New York where he has lived ever since. Each Walking Drawing follows the following protocol: in one hand the artist holds a notepad, in the other a pen, a colored marker, a pencil, etc., whose tip is in contact with the paper. The artist walks to a chosen destination and then returns to the starting point without looking at the paper. Like a seismograph, the hand that holds the pen records the movements of the walking body during the whole journey. The result of this movement alone, that is to say of an external energy, the drawing obtained is the reflection of no aesthetic prejudice, of no conscious project. It illustrates only its own process of creation, as well as the time and space in which it was executed.
In his Burst Drawings, Anastasi draws lines from the center of a large sheet of paper mounted on the wall. Standing in front of it, blindfolded, Anastasi holds a piece of chalk in her outstretched arm and moves away from the center. The stretching of the line is limited to the reach of his arm and extends in all directions. The resulting compression of the lines looks like an explosion.
The series of Blind Self Portraits is made without a mirror, with closed eyes, simply from memory. These blind self-portraits do not give access to any interiority, to any reality. They only express the nonsense of the chance that presided over their creation, the distance that separates them from their model, thus leading to a critique of representation. The automatic, repetitive, objective nature of this process is highlighted here by the numerous reiterations of the pencil and pen drawing.
Bruno Botella (born in 1976) has been pursuing experimental work for several years, characterized by a creative process that is free from the suggestions of consciousness. In order to free himself from the latter, the artist creates sculptures in boxes that make his work invisible, while at the same time using unusual materials such as anaesthetic clay or qotrob, a hallucinogenic modelling paste that, by penetrating through the pores of the skin, plunges the sculptor into a second state. The result is astonishing objects where the artist’s consciousness withdraws while his body engages and risks itself.
In parallel to these plastic and sensory experiments, Botella cultivates an original drawing practice. Made in Kyoto where he now resides, these drawings are the continuation of a long research begun with the first animated drawings that the artist made after graduating from the Beaux-Arts in Paris. Even if his work bears witness to numerous references, Botella strives to make his gesture as free as possible, letting his calligraphy brush run over the sheet to bring out, in his own words, an “unexpected and strange image like a hallucination”.