Uma Terminologia na Linha
Uma Terminologia na Linha
More than a decade ago, I wrote an essay for a catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Bill Lundberg: Syntax of Illusion. The exhibition served as a reintroduction to Lundberg, a pioneer in the field of video and film installation. The artist who then resided in Austin, teaching at the University of Texas, had recessed into the shadows of the contemporary art landscape. His work—with its innate power to unveil the human emotion, however—persisted. Although I had been a student at the University of Texas at Austin where Lundberg taught, I was not familiar with him or his work at the time. It was not until he was an artist-inresidence at the internationally acclaimed Artpace in San Antonio, Texas that I came to know the artist and his work. I invited Lundberg to exhibit his work at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2001; the mini-retrospective featured work from the artist’s nearly thirty-five years in the field, including a new work that the artist had begun while in San Antonio. The exhibition also featured a select few of Lundberg’s drawings. Some of these works on paper functioned as studies for the artist’s installation works, while others were self-contained works of art. I was surprised to learn during the process of organizing the exhibition that Lundberg had never before shown his works on paper, which were a virtual treasure trove of exacting schematics, as well as free hand explorations in form and composition. While the magic of spectacle is often attributed to Lundberg’s film and video installation work, it is his drawings that deconstruct the syntax of their illusion, providing audiences a glimpse into the mind of the artist. Lundberg has created works on paper for over five decades—the span of his artistic career thus far. Over this period, the artist has developed his own visual vocabulary that has shifted, been taken apart, and reconstituted, as has the artist’s work in video and
film installation. Much like those installations, Lundberg has developed a terminology in the line; the weight and construction of his works on paper serve to underpin the fragmented narratives of his work with the moving image or, conversely, manifest a singular thought or observation.
Formally trained as a painter, Lundberg’s drawings bear hallmarks of his artistic beginnings. Both early and recent drawings are imbued with a painterly sensibility, particularly in the artist’s usage of gouache and watercolors to “set” an emotional environment or simply outline space. Lundberg’s drawings also allude to the artist’s love of composition, which are either loose and ethereal or explicitly mechanical
in its graphic denotation. Alternating between sparse and dense compositions, Lundberg makes use of the twodimensional frame in both cases to meditate on the nature of space—be it physical or emotional. Given the artist’s fascination with human nature and human interaction, he literally draws the viewer into the frame or through a narrative, choreographing movement through imagined or real architecture. However, fundamental to Lundberg’s drawings is his insistence on revealing the psychological truths that bind contemporary society. Deeply affected by the shifts in the cultural, social, and political landscape of the 1960s, Lundberg sought to challenge the prevailing divisions of not only society, but also artistic production. The artist’s shift away from painting first into performance art and then film underscored his desire to capture an ethos of the moment and perhaps the consciousness of engagement. The artist’s pinpoint focus on human nature and human interaction, on both the macro and micro level, is rendered in equal parts: poetic and systematic. Working on paper, Lundberg’s use of inks, gouache, and watercolor provide a poetic dimension—a mood or emotional weight to his fastidious lines that permeate the page. Lundberg’s earlier drawings from the 1970s contain quick gestural markings using graphite and colored pencils, and are accompanied by copious notations and instructions for production. This characteristic carries over into works created in subsequent decades, but without extensive notation, probably because in subsequent decades Lundberg hones his craft as an installation artist. These earlier drawings ostensibly function as studies for production, and Lundberg is conscious of his new craft as a filmmaker and his roll as both the producer of the visual object/environment and of the emotional content of that environmental engagement. Exceptions to these early gestural drawings are Oceans (1975) and Outlook (1979), which appear more as formal architectural renderings complete with draftsman’s print and/or typed notations. Other works, such as Mutual Projection (1976) and Double Projection (1979), feel more reminiscent of Russian Constructivist Alexander Rodchenko, whose integration of image, politics, and even engagement with cinema in the early 1920s provides a substantial source for Lundberg’s early work. Having a formal education as a painter, Lundberg would have been aware of Rodchenko and the impact the Constructivist would have on other artistic expansive movements that consciously challenged the rigidity of disciplines as well as prevailing social and political ideologies.
As the work progresses decade by decade, Lundberg’s drawings and works on paper become much looser in their construction. While Lundberg becomes more astute in the production of his installations, his drawings serve to illuminate the artist’s conceptual profile of the work rather than their mechanical construction. Works like Discord (1986) and Clown Projection (1986) show the shifting balance in Lundberg’s drawings: while both are studies for installation work, they denote an awareness of the work as more than process and more as stand-alone object. This
shift comes as a lull emerges in the artist’s practice. Leaving New York in the mid-1980s, Lundberg’s opportunities for exhibiting installation work wane, and he begins to teach. As a result, many of the drawings during this period and its immediate aftermath function more as discrete pieces than studies. The loose and sparse spatial quality of works such as Animal Children (1986) typify this shift, although Lundberg never discards ideas for future installation work. His travels to Brazil and his partnership with one of the country’s conceptual pioneers, Regina Vater, also leaves an indelible imprint upon the work. Lundberg remains prolific in the creation of work, though it is not until the 1990s that his work in film and video installation again begins to gain traction on the contemporary art landscape. Drawings from this period and into the new millennium are amalgamations of past decades—alternating between stand alone drawings, gestural studies, and architectural renderings— such as Opening Projection Plan (1998) and Skiis (1990). By 2000, Lundberg is no longer reticent to exhibit his works on paper, and I am fortunate to be the catalyst in his consideration of this trove of work as methodical systems of thought and gesture. Since his retirement from teaching and relocation to Brazil, the artist has turned full-time to archiving, as well as to the ongoing creation of new work. The confluence of past and present is profound in this presentation of these drawings that render visible traces of the artist’s own fragmented, yet resonate, narrative. We, the audience, are the beneficiaries of Lundberg’s tenacity in this field, now some five decades and counting. And while his drawings at times serve as a blue print for his illusory worlds crafted in film and video, they also convey the inner workings of a poetic and thoughtful mind, whose persistence in knowing that our humanity hangs in a precarious balance might yet unite us.