The Universe on Paper
Venue: Domvs Comeliana, Pisa
Dates: 13-16 October
This exhibition displays a fine selection of the works produced by distinguished artist Linda Karshan during various stages of her career. Born in Minneapolis (Minnesota) in 1947, Linda Karshan was educated at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, from 1965 to 1966, under the tuition of the architect Robert Reed, a pupil of Josef Albers (1888-1976), a founding member of the Bauhaus. As an émigré, Albers was a protagonist of Geometrical Abstract painting in America. Karshan’s subsequent studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, the Slade School of Art in London and the London-based Antioch Centre for British Studies, London deepened her expertise in art history, especially Renaissance Art, and in psychology. Notably, her MA thesis of 1983, entitled Play, Creativity and the Birth of the Self, focused on Donald W. Winnicott’s theories of transitional space and creativity, which are central to Karshan’s artistic practice.
In 1994, Linda Karshan developed a performance-based method to bring her drawings into existence. Guided by what she has termed her ‘inner choreography’, the artist draws freehand, standing at a table, and, despite being left-handed, uses her right. As she reaches forward with her graphite pencil, her left leg rises up naturally, so she balances like a ballerina in an arabesque and draws a line to a rhythm of 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8. She then goes back over it, and makes a 90-degree anticlockwise turn of the paper. Thus freed, or – better – found, Karshan’s iterative images of intersecting lines, geometrical shapes and organic patterns stem from her rhythmic breathing, her anticlockwise turn of the paper, and the motion of her entire body and mind.
The show aims to shed light on the path pursued by Linda Karshan over several crucial decades of artistic output by presenting a selection starting from a large work of 1983 and culminating in a suite of drawings of 2021, created during the Covid-19 pandemic. All the pieces presented are on paper, and testify to the consistency of Karshan’s personal marks – particularly the constructive element of the grid, either manifest or implied – and the recurrence of seemingly geometrical patterns such as circles, squares or lozenges.
Karshan’s oeuvre naturally resonates with chiefly humanistic preoccupations such as the relationship between micro and macrocosms, the dialectics of gravity and grace, and an understanding of the body as measure of the universe. Displayed in the prestigious venue of the Domus Comeliana in Pisa – in the first exhibition hosted by the Institutio Santoriana – Fondazione Comel – Karshan’s works become a testament to contemporary humanism.
The exhibition launch is conceived in conjunction with the international conference The Universe on Paper. The Art of Linda Karshan, to be hosted in the neighbouring Museo dell’Opera del Duomo on 13 October 2022. Bringing together eminent scholars from an array of institutions and specialisms, the symposium is structured in three parts.
The first section explores the art of Linda Karshan in both its links with Renaissance principles and ideas, and its resonance with contemporary practices. The second group of papers focus on bodily knowledge, questioning the issue of the ‘intelligent hand’ in the practice of drawing, and the possibility of knowledge-making granted to and by works on paper. The last pair of speakers will focus on the body as cosmos, exploring the ‘latitudes of the body’ in medical treatises and contemporary reception, and deciphering the art of Linda Karshan in a scientific perspective.
The conference gathers a highly original group of speakers: distinguished academics and professionals from various institutions and countries, who have all gained first-hand and in-depth knowledge of Karshan’s art. Collectively, their fields of expertise encompass art and architecture, ethics and psychology, medicine and astronomy. Read the abstracts here.
At the end of the conference, the audience and speakers will join the artist Linda Karshan and curator Giulia Martina Weston for a preview of the exhibition at the Domus Comeliana, followed by further moments of conviviality during an exclusive cocktail party on the terrace.