Elvia Rosa Castro

It is difficult to understand how after that almost extravagant Giorgio Vasari beatification of drawing, giving it the role of the divine foundation, drawing would be relegated to the backstage, as an element of a residual economy and bastardy that was to be hidden. 

Ernesto Leal. Fragmento de escenografía de televisión No. 4 (TV set design fragment No. 4)

I was seventeen years old in 1986 trying to learn, in a classroom of medieval fashion, Zeno’s Aporia (Paradoxes). Although my teacher was brilliant, it was difficult, even impossible, to understand those logical reasonings about space and movement that have yet to be refuted. Then the professor appealed to the visual, drawing rudimentary lines that illuminated for me the “Arrow Paradox”, and “Achilles and the Tortoise”. I grew up seeing my father at his precision drafting table, drawing with a Cartesian meticulousness, measuring… but that experience, because it was a daily occurrence and was closely linked to engineering,  did not awaken in me anything more than admiration for the neatness and professionalism with which my father worked. Instead, those 1986 drawings stirred some ideas within me: their instrumental side, their utilitarianism, their relationship to the “abstract”, and above all their status as an epistemological tool.

Víctor Piverno. Preié World

The other step – sad, I must say – was to realize that despite all its virtues, the drawing seemed not to have a teleological nature. It always “helped” another to have a life of its own, while it merely constituted support, a cane. It was a means but never an end, and there had to be something beyond that non-autonomous and subaltern existence.  It is strange that because of its appearance shying away from physical robustness – or perhaps for that reason? – brings it closer to that notion of abstraction and of a project typical of the Telos. Possibly here began my solidarity vocation with the Drawing.

A chronology of the exhibitions and books that have been published offers a vindicatory and democratic vision of drawing can now be outlined.  At a glance: Drawing Now (1976), by Bernice Rose; Drawing Now: Eight Propositions  (2002), by Laura Hoptman; Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing  (2005), with intro by Emma Dexter; The Peripatetic School: Itinerant Drawing from Latin American  (2011), by Tanya Barson,  and VitaminD2: New Perspectives in Drawing  (2013), under the authorship of Christian Rattemeyer. These gigantic and still insufficient works have emerged from the desire to explain and present drawing as a legitimate exercise -one that has been obscured by artistic tradition-, as a substantial device that in itself contains countless possibilities of expansion and vibrant potential of expression, thanks to which we can find it as part of the diverse visual languages. Drawn: Concept and Craft lines up in that orbit (1).

But above all, this series of works that I mentioned shares a substantial commonality, namely: they are all erected in the process of dismantling and questioning the Modern canon, and, except only one, all of these works are led by women. Let us note that there is no accident in this.

We are probably far from properly calibrating these proposals based on the notions of an expanded drawing. They are, above all things, epistemological turns, indicating that our representation and perception of drawing -after those projects- will never be the same. These works have regained for us the status of Subject for drawing and, together with this recovery, there is another not less cardinal gain:  the feeling of emancipation they bring.

Rafael Domenech. From the series Untitled 1-9 (Friedman’s strength model of time memory)

I was dazzled by Tanya Barson’s acuity to understand drawing as a trajectory and displacement, and therefore as a liberating exercise. I must also recognize two moments in Rattemeyer’s essay that powerfully appealed to me. One is written in the form of aphorism: “In drawings, we seek truth, not power” (2).  The other is when he speaks of the drawing honesty.  This relationship between ethics and knowledge, between virtue and salvation, which emerges from his sharp observations adds another dimension to the phenomenon, beyond aesthetic and closer to the cultural and behavioral. To the emancipatory; the teleological.

Honesty: sincerity, nudity, absence of mediation, abandonment of “socio-cultural rituals and cult rituals”.

Glenda León. Peinado para momento silencioso (serie I, n.1) (Hairdo for a silent moment (series I, n.1)

Recalling an episode related to Theodor Adorno, Peter Sloterdijk summarized that “only a radical nakedness and bringing things out in the open can free us from the compulsion for mistrustful imputations” (3). And this argument was used in his defense of Diogenes the Cynic. Honesty prevents us from meandering appearances and brings us into the world of transparency. In this sense, the drawing contains a high dose of Diogenism and relief: It presents itself as humble, gives worship to common sense, and detests refractions. As Diogenes, drawing loves pyrotechnics and embraces impudence as an attitude. Both move away from convention and patriarchal rhythm. They are freer and “amoral”.

All this positively predisposes the drawing to expand, to assimilate, to adapt, to dialogue, to propose in a malleable sense, away from all norms. If today we talk about expanded drawing, it is thanks first and foremost to its inclusive vocation. When these ideas merged in my mind with those of the absence of concealment and brazenness, as an ethical notion that can underpin drawing, I suffered an involuntary visual association that referred me to   Courbet’s L’Origine du monde. I had the vague but not misconceived idea that drawing should be a feminine noun and that association confirmed it to me. Drawing and women bring order to space. They are the foundation, even if their contribution to the home has come to less. Drawing and women are closer to intuition than to the representational fallacies of the sign, and this partly explains their honesty and closeness to the truth.

Ramón Williams. Sound panel off

Low profile and modesty versus heroism. Diary versus biography. Malleability vs. robustness. Dialogue vs. discourse of the Modern indivisible self-sufficient being.  Such are the keys, together with their inclusiveness, that allow drawing to expand, gather, assimilate, and generate infinite paths of expression.

“Germination is conceived as silent underground and invisible activity” (4), says Lucía Guerra as she examines the presentation of the female gender in the patriarchal world. And it turns out that it is the same treatment that drawing has historically suffered, being as it is, par excellence, the origin of the world, the germinative act! Velázquez is remembered for his mastery of paintings but also for his reluctant attitude towards showing his sketches, minimizing, and discriminating against them. Canceling them.

Yornel Martínez. El caballo de la pradera (The prairie horse)

This historical sublimation or censorship suffered by drawing has been blown up thanks to its “weak” nature -in the notion granted by Váttimo. But also Poststructuralism and Conceptualism, with its vindication of the edges and the physically feeble, massively helped to clear the environmental complex and the discomfort that gravitated upon it, enhancing its immense capacity to alter and deploy beyond the simple pry that allows the revision of a sketch. It is in this eternal unfolding that it regains its character as a Subject and redeems itself.

Being the center without a center drawing already knows the margins and edges, and this gives it an incredible ability to defy it and defy itself incessantly.  Its sensual ego, anti-normative and anti-epic, soft and without an agenda, gives it that advantage. 

Ernesto García Sánchez. Untitled (Dinner Table)


(1) Drawn: Concept and Craft was a group exhibition on display at SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art), Winston Salem, NC. September 2020- February 2021. Curated by Thomas VU and Wendy Early. The text I´m sharing here was featured in its exhibit catalog. Nevertheless, images published in this current version don´t belong to that show.

(2) Christian Rattemeyer. VitaminD2: New Perspectives in Drawing (2013). Phaidon. P. 8.

(3) Peter Sloterdijk. Crítica a la razón cínica. (Critique of Cynical Reason). Spain (2003). Siruela. P.30

(4) Lucía Guerra. “La problemática de la representación en la escritura de la mujer” (The problem of representation in women’s writing). Debate Feminista, March, 1994. P. 186

Post image cover: Evelyn Aguilar Sánchez. Self-portrait made out of letters.

Here is the link to the Spanish version: