3/07/10 12:54 PM
The Polish author and artist Bruno Schulz was killed by the Nazis for being a Jew, but he left behind a series of provocative children’s murals, long faded but still potent, perhaps all the more so for their partial disappearance. The Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, who died of natural causes in the 1960s, was a prolific maker of subtle still lifes, delicately toned pictures of otherwise unremarkable bottles and jars. The Polish playwright Stanislaw Witkiewicz, who died in 1939 in relative obscurity, once wrote that “Art is the mystery of existence staring us in the face like a boar’s head on a platter, as something tangible, seen, and not as a system of ideas.” What all this has to do with the exquisitely understated drawings of Laura Bidwa is a testament to the richness of the artist’s work as well as her generosity. Without the presence of these three late creators, whom Bidwa exhibits as source material, it would be difficult to fully grasp the profundity of her pictures. With them, the ways in which the past makes its way into the present, changed and faded but still traceable, begin to reveal themselves. How to register these kinds of marks in a created image seems to be the task that Bidwa has set for her own project, answering it with line drawings whose meticulously rendered forms recall old lithographs and are not afraid to disappear, to let stains and fingerprints and wood grain show through, to be quiet as death and just as present.