September 28 – November 14, 2004

Roger Andersson
Nancy Friedemann
David X. Levine
Ati Maier
Shaun O' Dell
Jon Rubin
Leigh Tarentino
Scott Teplin
Su-en Wong

First Happiness brings together a diverse range of drawings by nine contemporary artists whose current art practice is directly inspired by events and experiences from childhood and adolescence. Each of the artists featured in First Happiness considers drawing his or her principal mode of artistic expression and maintains a passionate commitment to the possibilities inherent in the directness of the drawing process.

The artists in First Happiness employ traditional materials and drawing styles to render unconventional and idiosyncratic visions of maturity gone awry. Pencil, ink, watercolor, and gouache are their mediums of choice. Fluctuating between elegant fastidiousness and oddly exact crudeness, these artists handle line and shade with labor-intensive specificity. Candy colors, fairytale exploits, fallen heroes, secret hangouts, and blissed-out mindscapes abound in these beautifully off-kilter drawings that either exceed the boundaries of the page or hover in the center of a nebulous blank space. Even though an unabashed nostalgia permeates much of the work, the artists in First Happiness aren’t interested in taking a trip down memory lane. Instead, nostalgia serves as a metaphoric device by which to confront the emotional longings and dislocations of adulthood.

For these artists, storybook escapes, teen lust, comic book crazies, awesome guitar riffs, and Grandma’s lace curtains are just a few of the inspirational sparks that fuel the desire to stay in touch with what Walter Benjamin calls in his Dialectics of Happiness the “eternal repetition of the same situation, the eternal restoration of original first happiness.” In an attempt to reconcile the divide between the dreams of childhood and the realities of adulthood, the artists in this exhibition use drawing as the ground upon which to restore vestiges of that first happiness—the all-too-brief moments when old is new and tomorrow is today.

Corinna Ripps Schaming

Curator and Associate Director, University Art Museum

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