A Trip from Here to There, a recently opened collection exhibition in the Paul J. Sachs Drawings Galleries organized by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings, and Luis Pérez-Oramas, the Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, explores how peripatetic artists represent the routes of their wanderings. Though the paths they trace are personal, many of these artists adopt printed maps as their starting points; they appropriate objective cartographies only to undermine or enhance them with subjective itineraries. Herewith a few projects by artists who cut out and color in printed maps, taking us from Paris to below the equator and beyond—to destinations imaginary and impossible.
The Argentinean artist Jorge Macchi made 32 Morceaux d’eau (1994) during a residency at La Cité des Arts in Paris, where his studio afforded him a terrific view of the Seine. Outside his windows, the river flowed continuously, broken only visually by a steady series of bridges. Working from a printed map of the city, he cut out the sections of the river between each bridge, creating 32 discrete shapes. He then reiterated each cut-out shape in gouache, stretching out these “pieces of water” into a horizontal installation. The result shows how inadequate a map can be at expressing the essence of a place. Only by destroying and reconfiguring an objective map of Paris could Macchi convey the experience of its central river’s continuous current.
For Routes II (2002), Mona Hatoum made five color photocopies of the maps airlines use to advertise their flight routes and appended them with ink and gouache abstractions. The flight maps already go beyond purely geographical boundaries, plotting routes that reflect patterns of commerce and leisure, and Hatoum’s graphic additions both highlight and confuse these international networks. Hatoum, a British artist born in Lebanon to Palestinian parents once exiled from Israel, is interested in the easy fluidity represented by these arcing arrows. Likening these paths to the quasi-nomadic quality of her own life, she has referred to them as “routes for the rootless.”
In his Map of America (1975, and a new acquisition to the drawings collection), Chilean artist Juan Downey used rich swirls of color to obliterate the pre-drawn borders of the map that forms the work’s support. This work on paper relates to a larger 1976 multimedia installation Video Trans Americas, based on Downey’s travels in Central and South America. As he crisscrossed the continent, he videotaped aspects of the communities he visited, sharing the footage with subsequent groups in an effort to connect cultures. The colored-pencil spirals suggest lines of energy and communication that transcend geopolitical divisions.
More artist-altered maps await in A Trip from Here to There: Richard Long tracks his perambulations in an English forest in A Walk of Four Hours and Four Circles; Vito Acconci diagrams his urban stranger-stalking in Following Piece; and Sol Lewitt cuts a quadrilateral out of an aerial view in New York in A Photograph of Mid-Manhattan with the Area between The Plaza, Ansonia, Biltmore and Carlyle Hotels Removed (R 770). Come see; just don’t ask me how to get here.