Suzanne Bocanegra is an avid collector of curious things. This tendency is particularly well evidenced by the two drawings included in this exhibition, Brushstrokes in a Victorian Flower Album: Long Headed Poppy (2000) and Drawing Everything in My House: Towels (2001). In the earlier drawing, Bocanegra has meticulously dissected the building blocks of the red poppy from Henry Terry’s A Victorian Flower Album, originally published in the late nineteenth century. In Bocanegra’s version, the individual brushstrokes comprising this flower are laid out across a series of white paper squares, which are then grouped together by size. Bocanegra is fascinated with the way information is organized and displayed, and she carefully arranges her drawings, with the precision of a library scientist. Here, this ordering is complicated by the abstract nature of the strokes themselves, encouraging us to consider what was lost through Bocanegra’s dissolution of the original into its most basic parts. Bocanegra has noted that she is interested in how new categorizations can change our initial perception of something. In this piece, she has created a unique taxonomy of brushstrokes for Terry’s botanical study, transforming the poppy into a meditation on the very process of drawing itself.
Drawing Everything in My House: Towels likewise explores the emergence of meaning through classification. This work is part of a larger series, “Drawing Everything in my House,” in which Bocanegra attempted the daunting task of documenting the never-ending accumulation of stuff in her home. Inspired in part by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin’s eighteenth-century domestic scenes and Giorgio Morandi’s early to mid-twentieth-century drawings of bottles, she divided the contents of her home by type in an effort to exert some measure of control over the volume of material by which she found herself surrounded as a young mother. The drawing included in this exhibition consists of thirty-five towels, each individually fashioned out of used paper, loosely outlined in ink, and held together by paper bands in an asymmetrical grid. While Bocanegra’s work often seems obsessive in scope, there is an austerity to her use of color and composition that echoes with minimalist undertones. The structure and palette of Drawing Everything in My House: Towels, for example, invoke the subtlety of an Agnes Martin painting, while Bocanegra’s interest in the process of collecting suggests a relationship with seriality. At the same time, these handmade collections also situate her work in dialogue with that of contemporary artist Mary Kelly and others who use archival techniques to personal ends. While this particular composition recalls the early infographic of the nineteenth-century encyclopedia, the individual towels suggest something altogether more personal. Traces of writing are visible on the backs of several towels, evoking a sense of repeated use enhanced by the fraying edges of the paper. Out of this simple collection of towels emerges a portrait of an active home.
Suzanne Bocanegra Biography