A Valentine’s Museum Love Letter Week: The Drawing Center, Manhattan

By Lana Ogilvie, February 16, 2024

Dearest Drawing Center,

I miss those days when I lived in the neighborhood and could drop by unannounced in the afternoon. A quick visit to get refilled. Just the two of us. Teasing me with so many exhibits in that intimate space. Since 1987 you have been a home for creatives on Wooster Street in SoHo, reminding us of a time when artists lived and created in expansive, light-filled lofts. A legacy of a time now gone; the ghosts of Leo Castelli’s and Paula Cooper’s original galleries lingering in the cobbled streets.

You kept me sane then, living in that madness near Holland Tunnel traffic and the many tourists visiting the city. The only real art space left is speaking the truth, as the old places turned into mall stores and sham storefront galleries with art dealers selling Damien Hirst lithographs.

Remember our Hipkiss in the back room? Those massive, kelp-like forms, stretching, rising more than 7 feet, enveloping us in a graphite narrative of intricate, imagined lifeforms. Towers of vegetation grew around us, even as we stood watching; like a wall shielding us from everyone else.

From a drawing on display in The Drawing Center. Photo: Lana Ogilvie.

I love you for your rare and singular focus. Drawing. Always seen as the poor cousin to painting. All the other galleries uphold painting as the ideal. Ha! Painting. As if painting would even exist without the foundational drawing. The very beginning of all art, from the first markings of prehistoric humans on cave walls. A dynamic line, expressing all emotions in pressure, width, depth, and inherent lyricism. You have championed that line for decades, right at the center of where art lived. Claire Gilman and Isabell Kapur gracefully curated. Always focusing on the foundation.

From a drawing on display in The Drawing Center. Photo: Lana Ogilvie.

Remember that time you showed me your foundations? Susan York captured their weight and presence in monochromatic, charcoal simplicity. Rich and smooth like the rock itself. That narrow hallway squeezed in almost as if the granite piers of the foundation were pressing in on me, their miniature replicas shoring me up. I changed then, only making pared-down images with the barest bits of information. I didn’t have the strength for more than one tone. Maybe I was just lazy or evolving or just missing you and these helped me to remember.

Come spring I will visit again when the buds appear. A time for regrowth and renewal.

Yours, Lana

From a drawing on display in The Drawing Center. Photo: Lana Ogilvie.