The greatest assemblage of contemporary drawing you will ever see opened at the Katonah Museum in Westchester Saturday night. It is the product of a life's searching by a special eye, that of Wynn Kramarsky, who in a direct and succinct talk to the opening night crowd remarked, "When I walk into the studio it is the sensuousness of the paper and the sensuousness of the gesture that grabs me and that I now share with you."
The riches of this show begin with Christopher Wilmarth's Six Clearances for Hank Williams (1973), small green doorways that promise ephemeral relief to the doomed country singer, Wilmarth's favorite. This piece is coupled with Richard Tuttle's delicate green cascade of squares, Step #35 (1971) and Joel Shapiro's green grid of fingerprints from 1969, indicative of the thoughtful, relational hanging of the Kramarsky collection, which is provocatively titled "Drawn / Taped / Burned."
Indeed, John Cage submitted wet paper to the fire, using the smoke to create River Rock Smoke, a drawing on a delicate scroll. There are gems in this show that you would never expect, a sublimely sexy Esteban Vicente collage of burnt umber blocks from 1951 and Trisha Brown's Footwork #5, a sensuous green line tracing a pair of gorgeous feet.
Kramarsky is not afraid to include younger and lesser known artists, such as Tristan Perich, son of East Village legend Anton Perich, longtime editor of Night magazine, and Christine Hiebert, who turns a mound of blue tape into a rolling wave. Sara Sosnowy's gold dots on cerulean blue reveal a romantic weakness for process from Wynn, but, at heart, he is a stern formalist.
Kramarsky got the very best from Brice Marden, in a wax white double polygon with a cage like feel from 1970-72 and an impossibly complex, maplike Robert Ryman work from 1961, which promises what might have been had Ryman not been so bent on reductivism.
The Eva Hesse here is a stone cold masterpiece from 1965, mixing yellow gourds with black India ink, a touch of the phallus. But, there is so much else of true reward: Anne Chu's Listen (1994) with the delicate outline of a fleur-de-lis, a bit of bravado from Robert Smithson, drawings of peat bogs from 1971, and Suzanne Bocanegra's riotous cutout Drawing Everything in My House: Towels (2004).
I felt especially privileged that Wynn Kramarsky invited me to the opening of this deeply resonant show, as you will, too when you see it. "Drawn / Taped / Burned" underscores and affirms everything we art lifers have experienced in the last 50 years. It is a pure and unalloyed triumph.
"Drawn / Taped / Burned: Abstraction on Paper," Jan. 23-May 1, 2011, at the Katonah Museum of Art, 134 Jay Street, Katonah, N.Y. 10536
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).