The Strange, Funny Art of Fort Worth Drawing Center's Contemporary Drawing Today

In its inaugural exhibition, Fort Worth Drawing Center features 20 works by 20 artists under a very, very liberal definition of drawing.

The gallery is the front room of Francisco Moreno's studio in a cluster of warehouses on an industrial street. You will think you're in the wrong place, but you're not. It's behind a gate. For the opening, Moreno and co-curator Kevin Ruben Jacobs built a guard booth and convinced one of their friends to sit inside with a can of Red Bull, letting people in and out. The space is tiny, comparable to The Reading Room in Exposition Park.

The 20 drawings are arranged salon-style on two walls. It's a subversive show with a deceptively conservative title. Curators Moreno and Jacobs gave the artists total freedom to interpret "drawing" any way they pleased, and that design resulted in a broad range of works, including conceptual art from both Michelle Rawlings and Michael Mazurek that took me by surprise and made me laugh out loud.

Rawlings' "Mermaid" (2012) looks whim-driven and half-assed, a scribble with a Sharpie conceived and completed within seconds. When I saw it, I said "Starbucks" without missing a beat. I then listened to each new person who entered the gallery say "Starbucks" as soon as their eyes hit that piece. We are the callous consumer culture of which we bitch, and Rawlings makes that point with a drawing that took her maybe 10 seconds to execute.

Mazurek's piece probably took even less time than Rawlings'. "Art is for Pussys" (2013) is a cell-phone photo of an outline (drawn on paper) of a hand giving the finger. The phone is mounted on the wall instead of the original paper. It's hilarious, ironic and defiant, serving as commentary on the global ubiquity of our lust for convenience, but also the perception of the arts as being wimpy and somehow incompatible with masculinity. I don't see that idea addressed too often, and I would not have expected it to be attacked with such simplicity (or be so funny).

Bruce Wilhelm's "FAIL" (2012) is solid black acrylic paint on a 12-inch by 12-inch canvas. The circles are carved into the paint in what, at first, seems like a random pattern. But the longer you look, the more you see: the circles rise and fall in familiar patterns, and if you stay with long enough, you'll see the mirror image of the word FAIL.

And Linda Arredondo's "Target" (2012) looks pretty mundane, until you check the list of works to discover it's drawn in breast milk. What the fuck? Mind expanded and more than a little grossed out.

Contemporary Drawing Today runs through March 24th at Fort Worth Drawing Center, and is currently by appointment only. But do not be intimidated by the "appointment only" thing, as I used to be: They aren't trying to sell the work, and Moreno's studio is in the back room, so you could probably charm him into a studio tour as well. This should be your first stop when you go to Fort Worth for the upcoming Bernini show at the Kimbell.

The artists are: Cheon Pyo Lee, Esteban del Valle, Michelle Rawlings, Michelle Mackey, Linda Arredondo, Eli Walker, Josh Smith, Collin Hatton, Abel Rodriguez, Nieves Arozqueta, Michael Mazurek, Marilyn Jolly, Judy Glantzman, Darja Bajagic, Hilary Doyle, Katie Bell, Sedrick Huckaby, Bruce Wilhelm, Anthony Giannini, and Marianna Williams.

Images courtesy of Fort Worth Drawing Center.

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