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American, born 1952
A sculptor who salvages the unlikeliest of everyday objects, and also a draftsman who uses paper and graphite as sculptural materials, Nancy Rubins is well practiced in upending tradition. Her works that are labeled “drawings” share the physical presence and spatial dynamism of sculptures in the round. Drawing is lustrous and dark, absorbing and deflecting light in a way that complicates its contours.
Early on, Rubins explored ways of transgressing boundaries between mediums. Drawing and Sawhorse (1975) featured a large sheet of paper, thoroughly covered in graphite and draped over a sawhorse to suggest an animated form; two protruding sawhorse legs made it look vaguely bovine, as did a boxy, headlike extension of the graphite-covered paper. In Drawing (1974), a penciled sheet of paper was simply slung over a length of heavy rope as if it were laundry on a clothesline.
These and other early hybrids of sculpture and drawing introduced a way of using paper to which Rubins would return. Generally attached directly to the wall—sometimes spanning corners and occasionally also pinned to the ceiling, or allowed to spill onto the floor—these fully three-dimensional works are robust survivors of a working process that leaves them battered, gouged, and ripped; pinned and re-pinned; and, above all, covered side to side and top to bottom in furiously drawn strokes of dark, glistening graphite. The resulting rough-edged configurations, gathered into folds, resemble sheets of gleaming lead. As with the early drawings on sawhorses, these later works on paper sometimes assume a vaguely figurative aspect. Even more primordial are the associations invoked by the graphite, which lends a mineral glint to the surfaces of the drawings and a sense of seismic collision to the constituent sheets’ abutted edges.
Rubins uses pencil to engage light in a way that makes her drawings’ surfaces expand; the illusion they create is of exaggerated size, not weight. Nor do they conform to the rectangular shape of a conventional sheet of paper: they are not discrete objects—they cannot be framed; they are not, in any ordinary way, images.
Location: Norman Hackerman Building (NHB), West Lobby
GPS: 30.287783, -97.737455