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Closer to Life: Drawings and Works on Paper in the Marieluise Hessel Collection
June 26 – October 17, 2021
→ CCS Bard Galleries
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CCS Bard celebrates its 30th anniversary with a unique exhibition of over fifty artists staged within Blithewood Mansion on the grounds of Bard College and overlooking the Hudson River and the picturesque Italianate garden. Closer to Life is an exhibition of drawings and works on paper from the Marieluise Hessel Collection set within the historic ground floor rooms and parlors of late 19th century Georgian-style building that was built by the original Bard family between 1899 – 1903, and currently houses the Levy Economics Institute. The exhibition of over 75 drawings spans more than four decades of collecting by philanthropist, Marieluise Hessel, who co-founded the Center for Curatorial Studies in 1990. The summer exhibition will be accompanied by weekend tours welcoming the public to enjoy a rare opportunity to visit this landmark building within the beautiful grounds of Bard College while viewing an exceptional survey of Hessel’s collection of drawings and works on paper.

The title of the exhibition is suggestive of the intimacy of the act of drawing itself, a theme amply developed throughout with artists as diverse as Cecily Brown, Nicole Eisenman, Rashid Johnson, Arnulf Rainer, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, and Germán Venegas. As a reflection of Hessel’s collection and geographic trajectory of her life, from early years in post-war Germany to residence in Mexico City and on to New York City and the United States in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the exhibition is organized around these three spheres of influence that characterize the collection from origins to the present day. The range (and eclecticism of the collection) is represented by more than drawing per se, and includes collages, prints, artist books, and special editions. Each individual room is also punctuated by sculptures (by Louise Bourgeois, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Simone Leigh, among others), painting (by Amy Sherald), photography (by Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Robert Mapplethorpe and Gabriel Orozco) and video (by Tala Madani) in a complex juxtaposition of forms and histories.

Whether from periods of political activism in New York during the late ‘80s, to Pattern and Decoration and the Chicago Imagists, to a large installation of works on paper by German artist Rosemarie Trockel (selected by the artist herself), up until the most recent acquisitions by contemporary artists such as Toyin Ojih Odutola and Ulrike Müller, each of the room’s installations reflects the proximity of drawing to the artist and Hessel’s dedication to the depiction of the human figure as an essential act of examining the self and social relations. The title of the exhibition Closer to Life refers to the intimacy of the act of drawing itself. It focuses, with a few exceptions, on drawing as a discrete, stand-alone practice and preoccupation of artists rather than as a tool to create studies for works in other mediums. Drawing is a way of thinking, and the intimacy of the act is echoed in much of the subject matter depicted in the exhibition. For Marieluise Hessel, a touchstone for this reflection has always been found within the intimacy, complexity, and expression to be found in works on paper.

In addition to drawings and works on paper, the exhibition also includes a selection of archival materials and ephemera such as rare artist books, prints, editions, and correspondence drawn from the Center for Curatorial Studies extensive archives. In a focus room on Hessel’s collecting during her period in Mexico, graduate student María Camila Montalvo Senior has curated a multi-faceted installation, which includes original fabrics and an exquisite print edition, Trajes Regionales Mexicanos, 1945, by Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida, alongside works by contemporary artists from the region.

The exhibition is accompanied by Closer to Life, a comprehensive, fully illustrated, 380-page catalogue of the Marieluise Hessel collection of works on paper. Edited by Tom Eccles and Amy Zion with contributions by Paul Chan, Lynne Cooke, Gabriela Jauregui, and Michael Newman.

Exhibition artists include: Kai Althoff, Deborah Barrett, Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Scott Burton, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Deborah Barrett, Cecily Brown, Paul Chan, George Condo, William Copley, Carrol Dunham, Nicole Eisenman, General Idea, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Rachel Harrison, Jenny Holzer, Jörg Immendorff, Rashid Johnson, Ray Johnson, Anselm Keifer, Martin Kippenberger, W. Imi Knoebel, Robert Kushner, Maria Lassnig, Simone Leigh, Sherrie Levine, Sol LeWitt, Allan McCollum, Tala Madani, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul McCarthy, Dan Miller, Carlos Mérida, Ulrike Müller, Jim Nutt, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Gabriel Orozco, Raymond Pettibone, Arnulf Rainer, Suellen Rocca, Thomas Schütte, Amy Sherald, Lorna Simpson, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Rosemarie Trockel, Germán Venegas, Danh Vo, Kara Walker, Lawrence Weiner, and Nahum B. Zenil.