Sketchbook curated by Julian Calero
APRIL 21 - MAY 28 2012
It usually comes up a few beers into the visit once all the new work has been lauded and discussed and everyone is feeling comfortable. Do you have a sketchbook I can look through? Some are happy to hand them over, while others hold them tight, only sharing a few pages and keeping most hidden. Others don't have or use them, but almost all can at least blow the dust off one tucked away somewhere to share something they did years ago. Others have twenty-some-odd years worth of volumes you can flip through till you're seeing double. Some have different methods they consider sketchbooks, mock-ups or collections of scraps they obsess over. Either way, you can always be sure that by the end of the visit you'll both end up feeling a little weird, like someone opened up your junk drawer or started asking questions asking you losing your virginity. Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.
Seeing sketchbooks gives me the opportunity to learn something about a person's art that I wouldn't by viewing it on a white wall, reading a press release, or having a conversation at a typical studio visit. It can be a very intimate and somewhat invasive journey. You get to see where ideas were born that led to definitive series of works and abandoned ideas that lead to giggling all in the same place. While looking through several sketchbooks by one artist you can follow the progression of how their most current voice came to be, the dabbling in varying forms and schools that it took to get where they are today. You recognize reoccurring ideas that have woven themselves in and out of their work for many years in many ways.
There is also a diary like quality. Flipping through pages takes put you back where you were when you made the sketch or you can have no idea how something ended up on the page. There can be evidence of life's hardships and turning points. One of the most common things I heard was that artists sketched or practiced their sketchbook-like practice when traveling, that it works so much better than a photograph for remembering a place or a situation.