“I can work from Nature, from old sketches and paintings of my own, from photographs, and from other works of art. In each case the process consists of transposition of the forms of the subject into a coherent, objective color-space continuum, which evokes a direct sensate response to structure.”
“A Drawing is the correct title for my work,” the artist Stuart Davis wrote in a 1954 notebook. He meant the correct title for all his work, including the high-color, post-Cubist, proto-Pop paintings that have made him a revered presence in the American modernist pantheon. Davis’s devotion to drawing, to the act of laying down lines on a surface, had nothing to do with academic convention, which he scorned. For him drawing seemed to carry existential weight. Without the defining, containing line, all is confusion; chaos prevails; the bottom falls out of life and art.
He was very American in this way. We are a linear-thinking, line-making people, a nation of surveyors, measurers, calculators, plotters, mappers, dividers. To our forebears the fearful wilderness was something to build a straight road through. The horizon wasn’t some romantic Beyond; it was a goal to be reached in x number of days, months, years. Drawing anchors us in space, gives us coordinates and direction. It is the thread in the labyrinth, guiding us through.
[Cotter, Holland. “In Grace Notes, Linear Riffs on Reality,” The New York Times, January 4, 2008.]