Grids and graphs
Diego Rivera sends us on a graph paper drawing jag.
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This week at the Grown-Ups Table I have a radical drawing assignment for all of us based on a small, unusual sketch I saw in the Diego Rivera exhibit at SFMOMA. Grab a pencil, a few pieces of paper, some colors, and let’s do it.
If there is one thing I learn over and over again, it’s get out there and look at art. Looking at art in books and online is a great intro, but we miss 87% of the work. Go to museums. Galleries. Mural covered alleyways. When we’re physically in front of an artwork we can get up close, nearly touch our noses to the surface, and see how the artist made the thing. Line by line, stroke by stroke. Or, as in today’s subject, square by square.
Last week, I went with my friends Anne and Amy to see the Diego Rivera* exhibit at the SFMOMA. (For the uninitiated, here’s a documentary on the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, AKA Friday Kahlo’s husband.) The show is an awesome survey of his life’s work, and culminates with his ginormous Pan American Unity fresco which the museum temporarily installed on the ground floor. But what captured my attention wasn’t Rivera’s epic murals or historic paintings. It was this small sketch:
Diego Rivera typically worked in fresco for his murals (that’s where an artist paints into wet plaster on a wall.) But the when the Paramount Theater asked him to propose a mosaic for its facade, Rivera created used pencil and gouache on graph paper for his pitch. (That’s right, even Rivera had to do proposals.) The sketches were designed to scale up to 100-feet. Fun fact: The architect did not accept Rivera’s proposal and went in another direction. (That’s right, even Rivera got rejected.)
I was mesmerized by how Rivera used graph paper to work out his subject, composition and the mosaic’s pixelated form. Personally, I am so used to an unrestricted blank page and fluid lines… I wondered, what would it be like to simplify a drawing down to tiny building blocks?
So, my Grown-Ups Table peeps, grab your supplies. Let’s get square.
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