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Hammer Museum presents 'Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now'
Roy Lichtenstein. Foot Medication, 1962. Frottage and graphite pencil. 22 1/4 x 22 9/16 in. (56.5 x 57.3 cm). ©Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Hammer Museum presents Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now, exploring both the historical roots and contemporary impact of the automatic drawing method developed by Max Ernst (German, 1891–1976). Curated by Allegra Pesenti, the Menil Drawing Institute curator at large and former curator of the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, the exhibition includes approximately one hundred works on paper by fifty artists. It is on view at the Hammer Museum from February 7 to May 31, 2015 and at the Menil Collection in Houston from September 11, 2015 to January 3, 2016.

Apparitions: Frottages and Rubbings from 1860 to Now is the first museum exhibition to examine the technique known as frottage. From the French verb frotter (to rub), frottage involves the rendering of an image by placing a sheet of paper over an object or dimensional surface and rubbing it with a marking agent such as chalk or charcoal. The relatively simple procedure—which combines properties of drawing, printmaking and sculpture—generates sophisticated and unexpected compositions that capture both the indexical and more elusive properties of objects. The French poet and painter Henri Michaux (1899–1984) coined the term ‘apparitions’ for his frottages: images dictated by chance as much as by choice which emerge onto the surface of the paper. A coveted technique among surrealist artists, frottage continued to be explored throughout the twentieth century and remains an experimental practice in studios today.

“Frottage is a historically important artistic technique that has long influenced artists from a wide range of periods and regions. We are delighted to present the first museum exhibition about the subject, particularly because a number of examples come from the Hammer’s collection at the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts,” says Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum.

“Rubbings belong to the indefinable status of ‘in between,’ and embody the transformation that occurs in the transfer from surface to surface,” said exhibition curator Allegra Pesenti. “A metamorphosis of the rubbed object may arise in that process, as well as a revelation of previously unrecognized traces and textures. Appearances become apparitions.”

This exhibition features key examples of the technique from historical figures like Max Ernst and the Czech surrealists Jindřich Štýrský (1899–1942) and Toyen (1902–1980), to post-war artists such as Alighiero Boetti (Italian, 1940–1994) and Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997), to different generations of contemporary artists including Anna Barriball (British, b. 1972), Jennifer Bornstein (American, b. 1970), Morgan Fisher (American, b. 1942), Simryn Gill (Singaporean, b. 1959), Matt Mullican (American, b. 1951), Ruben Ochoa (American, b. 1974), Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1962), and Jack Whitten (American, b. 1939). The installation will shed light on artists little known outside their countries of origin such as Geta Brǎtescu (Romanian, b. 1926) and Eva Kmentová (Czech, 1928–1980). Acknowledging the convention of rubbing for anthropological and scientific purposes, the exhibition also presents important historical precursors, including a remarkable series of 19th century British tomb rubbings. This eclectic yet singularly focused selection demonstrates the multifaceted ways frottage transcends the traditional boundaries of draftsmanship.

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