Realized Sketches in Two Dimensions

Collected by Travis Diehl and Brica Wilcox

We admire the finished works of the following artists so much that we wanted to see how they start. Each of the twenty preparatory images collected here represents an early stage of a time-based work—an idea in two dimensions, realized (or to be realized) in three or four. There are storyboards and maps, abstractions and systems, renderings and research images. A shakily rendered line opens onto a dancer’s motion, and a series of pictures shapes an actor’s movements. We have not been disappointed.

These sketches do not all have the same relationship to what followed them, or even the same sense of destiny. You can think of a work narrowing into being, sketch by sketch, until it reaches the single point of its execution. But maybe these sketches, even if they led to titled works, also represent a limitlessness. They could still be picked up again and lead the artists somewhere else. The work may be finished, but the sketch never is.

The present project takes after X-TRA’s Sketchbook issue, curated by Karin Lanzoni, in 2002. It was the fourth issue of the fourth volume—when X-TRA was a two-color, newsprint sketch of its future self. Here we are, in our twentieth year, looking back into our archive and asking artists to dip into theirs. Twenty sketches for twenty years. Here’s a sketch for twenty more.

– Travis Diehl and Brica Wilcox

Poppy Coles, Sketch for Tongue-tied (video work in progress), 2017. Graphite on paper, 12 × 9 in. Courtesy of the artist.

A mouth shaped like a C stutters, unable to speak. In another frame a pair of hands attempt to tie a noose. Over and over, they falter and begin again.

Danielle Dean, Cel from True Red with matching nails, 2015 Hand-drawn digital animation, 3:45 min. Courtesy of the artist.

The image is a play on early animations where the animator (usually) male and white—is seen in the animation drawing, creating the charac- ters, giving them life, like he is god. Here, I am the author drawing the animation with matching nails. The nails and the drawing are real, but are enhanced digitally. I like the play between the red in the animation that is like this amorphous material that can be Nike one minute and a person the next.

Galeria Perdida, sketch for No Matter How Much You Push the Envelope, It’ll Still Be Stationary, 2014. (16mm film, 10:22 min.) Graphite on paper, 73⁄4 × 5 in. Courtesy of Galeria Perdida.

We filmed the attempt to bring a donkey inside a house and up/down a set of stairs. The set up was simple and absurd, naturally difficult. The film is cut out of sequence to suggest the circular frustration and intercut with black-and-white images—from various sources—that interrupt the narrative. These images often support or interrupt the donkey narrative at random intervals, as if both needing the animal and attempting to push it away.

Jonathan Billet, storyboard for 10 (Two), 2016 (feature-length screenplay) Ink on paper, 8 1⁄2 × 11 in. Courtesy of the artist.

An ancient yew tree and a Medieval church wall have been friends for hundreds of years. When a section of the wall collapses, a long-forgotten object is revealed that compels them to revisit moments from their past.

João Enxuto & Erica Love, ISCA Global Exhibition Module Prototype, Institute for Southern Contemporary Art (ISCA), 2016 (video, 16:00 min.) Digital rendering. Courtesy of the artist.

The Institute for Southern Contemporary Art (ISCA) was founded in 2016 to promote meaningful alternatives to the problem of global contemporary art by rerouting capital from the contemporary art market to fund institutions and practitioners developing new terms for artistic production. Modules are an important ISCA promotional strategy. They are mobile vessels for contemporary art products—sized to fit as pairs inside of standard cargo containers. Moving from port to port, modules can be positioned on the beach near the high tide line, a fluid boundary between private property and the public trust—bound to a state of groundlessness.

Maria Petschnig, digital rendering for a new video, 2017. Courtesy of the artist


Lucy Raven, sketch for RP31, 2012 (35mm film installation, color, 4:48 min loop). Felt marker on paper, 9 × 12 in. Courtesy of the artist.

This was one of a series of drawings I did to work out the rhythm and pacing of frames for my 35mm film installation RP31 (2012). In that piece, I repurposed film projection test patterns and calibration charts from throughout the 20th century into a stroboscopic visual score. These patterns have an indexical relationship to the film projector they were made to calibrate, many of which are now obsolete. The drawings helped me think through how to work out the visual composition for what I see as a sort of anachronistic history of film projection—one type of ghost story of the 20th century.

Liz Magic Laser, sketch and diagram for Handle/Poignée, 2018 (set for daily performance and video installation at the Centre Pompidou, polyurethane foam and acrylic coating, 22 × 23 × 3.8 ft.) Courtesy of the artist.

With dancers Lise Benoit, Carisa Bledsoe, Yun-Chen Chang, Célia Chauviere, Fabiana Gabanini, and Martina Musilova. Performance developed through a process that included workshops with dance therapists, France Schott Billmann and Mandoline Whittlesey, and choreographic consulting by Cori Kresge. Costumes by Slow and Steady Wins the Race. Set and costumes produced with generous support from Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette, Paris.

Handle is co-produced with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Gulbenkian Foundation, Paris, and the Confort Moderne, Poitiers. Developed in partnership with ACTS and Micadanses. Project produced on the occasion of Talismans, Le desert entre nous n’est que du sable, Gulbenkian Foundation Paris, and travel- ing to the Confort Moderne, Poitiers, in October 2018.

Upon entering the lobby, three dancers will greet selected visitors and evaluate their personality type based on their handshake. Each person will be ascribed one of four archetypes: the disciplinary parent, the nurturing parent, the compliant child and the rebellious child. These types are based on cognitive linguist George Lakoff’s Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (1996) in which he uses a model of the family to analyze dynamics between politicians and citizens. Responding to each visitor with movement that treats her type, the dancers will guide visitors to a soft sculptural set that uses a Venn diagram to outline three spheres of experience: home, work and politics. The dancers will use the props in this therapeutic space to demonstrate the potential of each personality using choreography devised to improve the functionality of familial and societal relationships.

Jon Rafman, sketch for Dream Journal, 2015–17. Watercolor on paper, 11 × 15 in. © Jon Rafman. Courtesy Sprüth Magers.

In Dream Journal, 2016–17, the latest in my surrealist video series, a contemporary epic cycle emerges. Arising from daily dream recording and free association, the film weaves unconscious fantasies with web vernacular. Rendered in hobbyist animation software, Dream Journal is a Dantean journey, transposing ancient archetypes onto twenty-first-century dreamscapes to explore the contours of fear and desire.

Shana Moulton, sketch for Galactic Pot Healer Ascension, 2010, companion piece to The Galactic Pot Healer, 2010 (video, 8:32 min.) Ink on paper, 81⁄2 × 11 in. Courtesy of the artist.

The main step structure was built from wood painted white, and it supported about eight vases, several broken pots, and a video projection of the “Pot Healer” healing shattered pots. It was meant to look like an assembly line of broken pots going into the Pot Healer’s domain through a tunnel and then ascending the steps whole.

Kelly Nipper, sketch for Terre Mécanique, 2017. Collage, 9 × 12 in. Courtesy of the artist and Performa, New York.

Terre Mécanique is a collaboration with the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT. The project brings together experiments in the evolution of still and moving images, Laban Movement Analysis, and architectural-scale 3D printing in a gel suspension. One aspect of what we are exploring is a kind of dynamic crystallography of human movement in which spatial pressures and transformations are examined in parallel to the building up of matter.

Andrew Norman Wilson, digital collage sketch for Ode to Seekers 2012, 2016 (HD video, sound, 8:30 min. looped). Courtesy of the artist.

I send collages to my modeler/animator to initiate the design process of each model. He sends a model draft back, then I respond with another collage, and so on. This is the first collage I sent to my modeler/animator for one of the models.

Rasmus Røhling, photo documentation from the artist’s studio: research imagery for Self Passage, 2017 (HD video, 14:21 min.) Courtesy of the artist.

These are research images from what ultimately ended up being Self Passage. I was interested in how the authority of the typical “all-knowing” male voiceover often relies heavily on that deep, calm, low pitch, and how any diversion from this is potentially read as a lack of authority/masculinity. Somehow this led me to the idea of Kermit’s voice as the neutered male commentary voice. I was trying to formulate a kind of thesis/conspiracy theory that, somehow, the urgency and self-doubting Woody Allen-esque pitch of Kermit’s voice was some sort of rebellion or attempt to escape from the bad trip/flesh prison of manliness. I ultimately ended up not using any of it. It was just too lame. In the top right corner is a picture of French Minister of Culture André Malraux, who suffered from Tourette’s syndrome, at dinner at the White House with the Kennedys.

In the final video, I do, nonetheless, take on both an imitation of Vito Acconci’s troll-like voice as well as the strange snuffling singing style of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis. Both probably enabled, somehow, through the Kermit theory.

Adam Linder, sketches for To Gear a Joan, 2017. Two pages, ink and graphite on paper, 81⁄2 × 11 in. each. Courtesy of the artist.

A musical work in which a carbon-fiber armor functions as a wearable libretto for a solo performer. Conceived especially for Norwegian vocalist Stine Janvin Motland. In the work, the figure’s custom suit of armor is a second protective skin that can modulate into a sculptural seat, a music stand, and a sound amplifier.

Meriem Bennani, sketchbook pages, looking for a title for FLY, 2016 (12-channel projection-mapped digital video installation, 17:33 min.) Ink and graphite on paper, 10 × 15 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Part documentary travelogue, part soap opera, and part juicy gossip session, FLY is a multimedia work that immerses the viewer in an environment of brightly colored, geometric forms and surfaces. An animated fruit fly serves as a guide through the video, mischievously buzzing around an open-air market, weaving through Medina quarters in Rabat and Fez, and bringing viewers beyond the walls of private homes and into lavish private celebrations. This work was commissioned by MoMA PS1 and exhibited there in 2016.

Jibz Cameron, map study poster for Soggy Glasses, A Homo’s Odyssey, 2014 (live performance with animated film). Drafting pencil, colored pencil, and Photoshop on paper, 11 × 11 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Soggy Glasses is a feminist send-up of Homer’s classic mono-myth. Dynasty Handbag acts along with a projected film showing the landscape of her journey, which she embarks upon through her vagina, naturally. This is a sketch of the map I created, which she uses as an animated guide in the film that runs during the performance.

Miljohn Ruperto, storyboard for Scene 28 of Ordinal (SW/NE), with Rini Yun Keagy, 2017. Storyboard by Kelsey Boncato. Courtesy of the artist.

This storyboard is from the production of Ordinal (SW/ NE) (2017) by Rini Yun Keagy and Miljohn Ruperto. The illustration depicts the nightmare scene of the character Josiah (played by Josiah Ihem), suited in his California State University Bakersfield mascot costume, “dance battling” the ancient Mesopotamian demon-god Pazuzu in its Malevich-inspired form.

Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs, study for Rite of Fall at High Desert Test Sites, October 21, 2017 (performance) Ink on paper, 93⁄4 × 12 in. Courtesy of the artist.

This site- and season-specific ritual responded to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (1913) and the myth of Persephone, paying homage to the pith of the season: harvest and the ensuing darkness, a time to turn inwards, re-group, and rest.

Tarwuk, sketch for Cast_KITEong_ BROW (video work in progress) Graphite on paper, 8 × 10 in. Courtesy of the artist.

This image is an interior space study for a short animated movie based on an excerpt from a Reddit story that surfaced in 2016 on unrelated discussion threads. Reddit users pieced all different threads into one story, but the author remained anonymous.

Simone Forti, News Animation Drawing—Past Future, 2012. Graphite on paper, 18 × 24 in. Courtesy of the artist and The Box, Los Angeles.

This drawing is one of a series of about 35 News Animation drawings that I made in 2012; a selection was exhibited in the Hammer’s Made in L.A. show. They are an extension of my News Animation performances (1985–present), in which I “Dance the News,” often with stacks of recent newspapers.

Further Reading