At a recent exhibition opening at the RISD Museum, visitors could be seen with magnifying glasses trained over drawings that hung from the walls, closely observing their intricate marks and complex textures—analyzing them like live specimens.
Seventy objects of study had traveled from the British Museum’s collection of drawings, in a selection that represents several centuries, even millennia, of human mark-making. Works on view represent everything from an ancient Egyptian funerary papyrus, to the feverish maelstrom of tumbling, muscular figures that Michelangelo sketched as studies for the Last Judgement, and an abstract drawing by former RISD grad Julie Mehretu that resembles a cosmic explosion radiating out from a black hole.
Indeed, so strong and diverse is the grouping of works on paper that the British Museum’s Keeper of Prints and Drawings, Hugo Chapman, described it at the opening as “the best-ever drawing show that we sent out from the collection.”
In many ways, the exhibition, titled “Lines of Thought” and curated by the British Museum’s Isabel Seligman, reflects the methodology around drawing at RISD. The school places an unusual emphasis on the discipline—often considered to be traditional or outmoded—as a foundational practice for anyone exploring a creative field. Drawing is taught as a form of visual thought, a method of investigating the world and generating new ideas or solving problems, even a mode of self-discovery. Continue reading.