Exhibition Captures the Moment Before Digital Took Over Drawing

Curated by Jeffrey Kipnis, Drawings’ Conclusions: The Ends of the Line is on view at 59 Franklin Street through March 2, 2018.

Preston Scott Cohen, Deformation of Symmetry 1, 1993. Pencil on paper.

With the triumph of the digital in today’s architecture schools, the old art of drafting seems to have died out completely. Drawings’ Conclusions: The Ends of the Line, now open at the 59 Franklin Street gallery in New York, recalls the heyday of hand-drawing while gesturing toward its current state.

That heyday was the late 1980s and early 1990s, the period most representative of what curator Jeffrey Kipnis calls “the apotheosis” of hand-drawing—when analog reached its high point and tipped over into the digital.

Kipnis, visiting faculty at SCI-Arc and a professor at Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture, first developed Drawings’ Conclusions for the SCI-Arc Gallery in Los Angeles, where it debuted last March. The exhibition made its way to New York via Anyspace, an initiative by the nonprofit Anyone Corporation that aims to bring architectural exhibitions to New York. “There are very few venues in the city to see shows curated by outside individuals or institutions,” says Cynthia Davidson, executive director of Anyone Corporation. “That’s the whole premise of what we’re doing.”

On view are drawings by Stan Allen, Greg Lynn, Preston Scott Cohen, Jesse Reiser, Nanako Umemoto, and Michael Young, to name a few. They vary greatly in range, from conventional axonometric drawings (such as Stan Allen’s Campo Marzio Studies from 1986) to works that push the boundaries of architectural drafting (such as Reiser+Umemoto’s 1988 Globe Theater, Engendering Plate with Sigils). “Everyone at that time was able to draw this well, or close to this well,” said Kipnis. “That’s just how it was at that moment.”

Drawings’ Conclusions, however, doesn’t just focus on the past. The exhibition includes more recent drawings that incorporate digital elements but remain in dialogue with their analog predecessors. Architects such as Andrew Zago and Philip Parker, Kipnis noted, have a strong sense of “disciplinarity that was expressed in a strong loyalty to what drawing was, but without nostalgia.” Younger generations may yet return to drawing, Davidson told Metropolis, though not for any practical, day-to-day construction documents. Rather, such works would be thoughtful explorations akin to those on the walls of 59 Franklin Street. “We’re in a moment of craft, the artisanal product … it follows that people will go back to ink and mylar.”

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