Magazine article Artforum International

David Musgrave: LUHRING AUGUSTINE

Magazine article Artforum International

David Musgrave: LUHRING AUGUSTINE

Article excerpt

David Musgrave's art, like Seinfeld, elevates seemingly banal or arbitrary subjects to unexpected heights. In his New York solo debut, the British artist presented an austerely beautiful suite of drawings and objects in which painstakingly flawless technique is brought to bear on motifs that oscillate between the timelessly iconic and the neither-here-nor-there. What the exhibition made indisputable was Musgrave's ability to reveal the underlying complexity of outwardly trivial images, and to extract a sensual beauty from materials without resort to "expressive" (or even readily perceptible) inflection. A show about nothing, indeed.

Musgrave's signature image--employed so frequently as to take on the aura of a logo--is that of a crude stick figure with an oversize head. Sexless and faceless (or, at most, having circles or Xs for eyes), it is equal parts telephone doodle and all-purpose avatar, childlike scrawl and primal archetype. For the drawings here, the artist used graphite and paper to simulate other kinds of renderings on surfaces different from those that are physically present; imagine a drawing of a photograph of an etching. The technique at once invests the image with a certain (if still mysterious) import and slows our enquiry after meaning by concentrating attention on the visual. Plane with scored figure, 2009, is typical. Not merely representing but convincingly imitating a sheet of cardboard with the figure etched into its surface with a knife, the drawing diverts our gaze away from a singular symbolic significance and around a Mobius strip of technical process.

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Grey plane with embossed figure, and Reverse drawing no. 1 and no. 2 (all 2008), and Dark plane, 2009, have similar looks, suggesting compositions that have been embossed, or drawn heavily on a thin sheet of paper's unseen side. That paper's character shifts from drawing to drawing, the effects of creases, crumples, and tears produced with uncanny veracity. …

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