Lucia Nogueira’s quietly confident drawings occupy the twilight in which reality loosens its hold on the everyday. Many appear to be straightforward experiments in color incorporating elements of Nogueira’s sculptures: gray test tubes, a funnel framed by a smooth ocher brushstroke, a row of colored lines, abstract scribbles, or an ink-soaked page with a thick drip of enamel near its top. As a result, the works’ occasional strangeness takes you by surprise. One column of five yellow blobs has a cartoonish helicopter landing at its top (Untitled, 1995); elsewhere, pearly teeth loom out of the darkness (Untitled, 1991); and in a gloriously macabre example, what look at first glance like mangled tulips turn out to be animal heads atop flower stems (Untitled, 1998).
This is the first exhibition to concentrate on Nogueira’s drawings, which she produced in the hundreds alongside the sculptures for which she was better known, and they amount to a significant body of work. Whereas in her sculptures the Brazilian-born, London-based artist drew out the repressed violence of everyday objects like electric ceiling fans or mechanical toys, her works on paper are subtler, even whimsical. Four cats sitting with their backs turned have crosses in place of heads (Untitled, 1989); buttons with a bluish tinge could double as faces (Untitled, 1998). Their colors are crepuscular, dingy or faded; the cats have a brackish tinge, and in some drawings the entire paper has been steeped in ink or watercolor, giving them a dark, crusty depth. A line of plus and equal signs across one of the ink-soaked pieces of paper looks like a rendering of the stations of the cross, lending the work instant gravitas (Untitled, 1992), but the marks are made in correction tape, which has begun to flake off. This impermanence nods to a subtly feminine language, one Nogueira shares with other female artists whose drawings explore that strange space where the mundane morphs into the unreal. Teeth suspended midpage along a liquid red line bring to mind Jay De Feo; scribbly abstractions recall Unica Zürn; and button-faces filling an entire page in rows echo Yayoi Kusama.
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