Group 3: China Marker Drawings 1978-1982

As you look through these images they progress chronologically from neat ones to ones with more gesture. This transition can be attributed to being around John Chamberlain. I started working as his assistant in Florida in May of 1980.  Though a generation removed from Abstract Expressionism, his work embodied it enough, that during the time I worked with him, I slowly came to  re-appreciate the aesthetics that my father’s world had first represented.  The emergence of neo-expressionism during the same period was influential in this regard as well.

The drawings were done on  grid paper and the squares are composed of 4 units to the inch.  The media is “china marker” a professional grade wax marker. I liked the quality of the markers because they applied evenly and had great coverage, unlike crayons. The series was started in New York in the fall of 1978,  made while I  did the larger paper assemblages, and continued in my last year in California in ’79 and then again, in Florida while I worked for John.

The motif in the most of these drawings is morphing patterns.  As “pattern painting”  had been influential in the late ’70s  my response might be described as ” post pattern”  because of my deconstruction of that element. After establishing a pattern of the composition, I would then break it, either by redrawing certain parts or by actually cutting the drawing and physically shifting the paper. My process, was to work through a sequences of actions; determine initial pattern, determine color, apply, redraw pattern or cut/shift, recolor new pattern, cut and shift again,  recolor again, etc..all this was following the Jasper Johns’ description .. do something, do something to that, do something to that… etc.

A counter theme, which appeared occasionally in the series was simply to leave the initial  pattern, unchanged.   I always have the need to create some works in a series which occupy a dialectical position from the rest.  Finally, toward the end of the series, the drawings become more about gesture altogether. These emphasized the feeling of the viscosity of the wax line which included how it felt to scrape the wax off. The edges of the drawings become irregular. I liked to call those drawings “fuzzies”.

Drawing is the “arena”, (Harold Rosenberg’s term)  where things can get worked out, where you try anything and everything and see what gives. I made about 100 drawings with china markers and they established my love of working with wax, which I returned to in the ’90s.