The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 Friday, April 16, 2021

The Drawing Center opens an exhibition of more than 140 drawings by imprisoned artists
Sérgio Sister, Impress your feelings with your fingerprint, 1970. Econoline ink, oil pastel and hydrographic pen on paper, 17 3/8 x 17 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Galeria Nara Roesler.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Pencil Is a Key: Drawings by Incarcerated Artists is an exhibition of more than 140 drawings by imprisoned artists from around the globe. Featuring works produced over a roughly two-hundred-year period, the exhibition presents powerful evidence of the persistence of human creativity in the most inhumane of circumstances. For each of the incarcerated artists represented in The Pencil Is a Key, the act of putting pencil to paper is a vehicle through which they proclaim their individuality and measure their humanity against systems of repression. Together, their drawings are containers of memories, records that bear witness, tools for survival, weapons in the fight for justice, and portals to a better future.

Organized chronologically, The Pencil Is a Key interprets the term “incarceration” broadly to mean any situation in which an individual is denied their freedom. This includes penal incarceration; imprisonment of combatants during wartime; systematic imprisonment by governments on the basis of political affiliation, gender, sexuality, race, or religion; as well as forced restriction of movement and involuntary imprisonment in psychiatric institutions. Throughout the exhibition, drawings by artists who were or currently are prisoners are presented alongside works by prisoners who became artists while incarcerated.

Examples include political prisoners such as Gustave Courbet, who was held in Saint Pélagie Prison for his role in the Paris Commune uprising of 1871; leaders from Southern Plains nations, who were incarcerated in the US military’s Fort Marion following the Red River War (1874–75); artists imprisoned during World War II as noncombatants like Hans Bellmer, who was interned in France, and a young Ruth Asawa, incarcerated first at the Santa Anita Racetrack, and later at the Rohwer Relocation Center, as part of the US government’s mass internment of Japanese Americans; as well as artists in Soviet Gulags, apartheid-era South Africa, in Central and South American countries under military dictatorships, and in the post-Arab Spring Middle East. The exhibition also presents drawings by members of contemporary American prison populations who found their talent through prison art programs, as well as collections of works by anonymous artist incarcerates working in drawing subgenres specific to US prisons in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including drawings made on prison-issue handkerchiefs (known as paños chicanos), drawings on the exterior of mailing envelopes, and hand-drawn playing cards.

Although captivity does not create a uniform style of drawing, there is little doubt that sustained periods of isolation from society have an impact on artistic expression. Artists often draw what they see, and in prison the view is radically limited. As a result, more portraits are produced than landscapes, and landscapes are most often views out of windows or otherwise reliant on magazine or book illustrations. In some astonishing cases, like that of Guantánamo prisoner Abdualmalik Abud, landscapes are meticulously rendered from memory. Along with portraiture and landscapes, drawings embedded in epistolary texts are common, as are scenes that document daily life in incarceration—some quotidian, others horrific.

Throughout The Pencil Is a Key, examples abound of the ingenious ways that incarcerated artists draw by any means available to them. Laundry pencils, ballpoint pen refills, food, and bodily fluids are applied to scraps of cloth, letters, envelopes, bills, and discarded packaging. Foldable, flat, and unassuming, drawings are also easier to hide than are three-dimensional works, an advantage in circumstances where the act of artmaking itself has the potential to constitute insurgency. Beyond these practical concerns, are other, more existential reasons for the choice of such a primary medium as drawing. Incarcerated artists represented in The Pencil Is a Key use drawing as a means for investigation and reportage, for currency, for mapping, sketching, counting, and measuring, activities that can be helpful, even essential to surviving imprisonment or for struggling against it.

Laura Hoptman, Executive Director, remarked, “In this moment throughout our country and around the world, when all kinds of freedoms are being called into question, it seems to me that we could not have picked a more urgent topic than the ability of drawing to articulate our humanity and express our determination to be free, even in the most dire conditions. For the first exhibition created under my auspices as Executive Director, I wanted all of us at The Drawing Center to collaborate on a show that made a full-throated argument for the essential nature of drawing—or in broader terms, art—to our lives, and in a bigger sense, to the definition of ourselves as human beings.”

The Pencil Is a Key is organized by the curatorial team at The Drawing Center: Claire Gilman, Chief Curator; Rosario Güiraldes, Assistant Curator; Laura Hoptman, Executive Director; Isabella Kapur, Curatorial Assistant; and Duncan Tomlin, Curatorial Research Intern.

The Pencil Is a Key is accompanied by a 144-page softcover catalog that includes full-color illustrations of many works in the exhibition, and essays by Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood, Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Associate Professor of American Studies at Rutgers University; Dr. Valérie Rousseau, Curator at the American Folk Art Museum in New York; and Courtenay Finn, Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, where the exhibition will travel in 2020.

Today's News

October 16, 2019

The Tasteful Effect of Top-Level Oriental Rugs Enhances the Dining Experience

Sotheby's to offer Francis Bacon's 'Pope' on behalf of the Brooklyn Museum this November in NYC

New Mark Rothko monograph to be released on Nov. 5

Nigerian painting fetches £1.1 million after Google search

Sale at Drouot features 130 meteorites

Rare early black paint Leica M3 will be offered at auction in London in November

Meeting the 'Mona Lisa' for an intimate (virtual) rendezvous

Simon Lee Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Paulina Olowska

The shock of the old: Rousseau discovery heads a new-look auction for the capital

Nearly 1billion euros raised, pledged for Notre-Dame rebuild

Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum reopens

Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G. and Dave Matthews Band nominated for Rock Hall

Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

Scandal-hit Placido Domingo 'happy' to sing in Moscow

Nobel winner fears rising self-censorship in Poland

The FLAG Art Foundation presents a two-floor exhibition by Nicolas Party

The Drawing Center opens an exhibition of more than 140 drawings by imprisoned artists

Marlon Brando's illegal Vespa runaround in Berkshire for sale with H&H Classics

Artist marks Native American Day with a reimagining of Mount Rushmore

18th century cookbook gives up its intriguing secrets at auction

Three photography exhibitions opening at deCordova this October

Two new exhibitions at the Morse Museum present rare Tiffany pottery and archival treasures

Exhibition at Oolite Arts highlights works by eleven artists

How to buy Top-quality Activated Charcoal Powder

10 Scientific Writing Tips

The Casino Mogul Who's also One of the World's Leading Art Collectors

How to Apply Heat Transfer Vinyl Rolls

The King of Juice is Building a Juice Empire

Finding the Best Rated Air Conditioner in Henderson

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

sa gaming free credit

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful