William Stockman presents drawings that are often dark, fragmented, and mysterious. Though he typically depicts human figures, they are enigmatic and archetypal. Stockman often culls his images from daily newspapers, but he abstracts and disassembles them, simplifying them using bold outlines. His drawings appear to be quick and unconscious, rather than laborious efforts. The results are pictures that feel archaic or pre-modern, as if he was trying to find, before the rational mind, a more primitive beauty.
William Stockman (born 1965) creates abstract drawings inspired from the myriad of sketches that he makes of the everyday human figure. His drawings, some at great scale, present depictions of people – sometimes just their parts and sometimes in various arrangements – drawn in a visibly automatized and minimal style. He lives and works in Denver.
William Stockman's exhibition was one of six exhibitions focused on the metaphysics of the human figure grouped under the title Looking for the Face I Had Before the World Was Made. The artists included: Michaël Borremans, Samuel Beckett, Eric & Heather ChanSchatz, Lorraine O'Grady, A. G. Rizzoli and William Stockman. Each of the artists explored how depicting the human figure can offer something more consequential than a simple catalogue of physical features. Each work in the exhibition told a human story while de-emphasizing the likeness of any particular person. Using a wide variety of styles, the artists were joined by an interest in creating a sense of a phenomenon deeper than the surface image, capturing a presence prior to the appearance of the fully formed individual. The line "Looking for the face I had before the world was made," is a quote from the late poet and dramatist, William Butler Yeats, from his poem "A Woman Young and Old." It can be understood as either a statement of faith or a philosophical riddle related to the formation of the self.
Looking for the Face I Had Before the World Was Made opened January 29, 2009 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. The exhibition was sponsored in part by Amber & Michael Fries, Emily Sinclair & Jay Kenney, and MCA Denver's Director's Vision Society.
image: William Stockman. Thursday, November 5th, 2009 (detail), 2009, conte on paper with debossed date stamp, 72 x 78 in (182.9 x 198.1). Courtesy the artist.