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Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life

March 14 – April 12, 2024

Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to announce the gallery’s ninth online viewing room, Derek Boshier: Drawn from Life. Opening March 14, 2024, this online exhibition highlights Boshier's drawings from the early 1960s to the present. Accompanied by a collection paintings and one woolen tapestry, these works shed light on the material care present throughout his storied career. 

As a complement to the following depictions of flight, time, violence and sports, we present an essay written for the occassion by writer and curator Gilles Heno-Coe: 

"An artist should always use the medium that is best suited to the idea."

–Derek Boshier, 2019

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Toothpaste Difficulty, 1962

Graphite on paper

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

Derek Boshier could be considered an ironic case study in medium un-specificity and offers a kaleidoscopic vision unified by his strange and “popularist” sensibility (to use a term favored by the artist). Whether in graphite or paint, print or book, film or photography, Boshier’s imagery and themes have common sources: the mass media, including magazines, westerns, news reels, television, iPhone images, even art history itself. A palpable sense of place also permeates his work—with cities like London, Houston, and Los Angeles featuring as regular backdrops for his iconic falling figures and hollow, gaping profiles, emptied out and dehumanized by craven, American-style consumerism.

Possessing a pragmatic and working-class notion that the medium should suit art's purpose and feeling that painting failed to realize the totality of his vision, Boshier would, in the late-1960s, abandon the medium for thirteen years. He remained just as prolific, especially in drawing, while experimenting with other media including, more recently, woolen tapestry.

Following a move to the United States in 1980, and missing the characteristic physicality of the medium, Boshier finally resumed painting, producing a series of iconic, humorous portrayals of the Postmodern American West. No matter the medium, according to Robert Moeller, “what Boshier offers is a serious critique — visual reminders, if you will — of the absurdities of modern life.”

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Derek Boshier and David Hockney, Royal College of Art, London, 1961

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

William Blake, Simoniac Pope, 1794

Toothpaste Difficulty features a classic milieu of Boshier characters, from the falling figure to the blank profile, and a reference to popular sources like toothpaste advertisements. The backdrop is fractured, flattened, rendered unstable, a fragile armature through which his plummeting figures fall. Their flailing awkward limbs echo the action of the toothpaste and toothbrush, which becomes giant in scale compared to the figures, reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg’s classic human-sized soft sculpture from 1964. These falling figures are also menaced by one of his characteristically looming, blank-faced profiles on the right.

According to Boshier, “This falling figure I began using in my 1962 Pop Art painting as a symbol of vulnerability. I am only conjecturing but I think David Bowie might have initially contacted me because of my use of the falling figure.” Responding to a class 4 assignment to make a painting from a famous classic painting, Boshier chose William Blake’s Simoniac Pope, which featured Pope Nicholas III going to hell, an illustration from The Divine Comedy. Classmate David Hockney made a painting related to a Ford Madox Brown.

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Derek Boshier, Sketches for the Lodger sleeve, 1979

These symbolic figures recur throughout Boshier’s career, notably on the cover of Bowie’s album Lodger (1979). The original gatefold album sleeve for Lodger featured a full-length shot by photographer Brian Duffy of Bowie in a tiled bathroom looking like an accident victim, heavily made up with an apparently broken nose and a bandaged hand. This was inspired by the self-portraits of Egon Schiele. Boshier would also design the musician’s fifteenth studio album Let’s Dance (1983).

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Falling Figure #1, 2018

Graphite on paper 

4 x 6 inches

More recently, the falling figure has taken the form of a woman, such as in Boshier’s drawing Falling Figure #1 (2018). The gaping profile returns here as well, appearing as a silhouette through which a Western cityscape disappears along a twilight horizon, its eye cleverly doubling as a crescent moon. The face crumbles along its right side like lego bricks tumbling into the sheet’s white void, while it splinters off to infinity along its left. Positive space becomes negative and vice versa, demonstrating Boshier’s unique facility for this inherently flat, linear medium which somehow seems to pop right off the page at the same time.

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Archie and Picasso, 2018

Graphite on paper

10 1/2 x 8 inches

In another recent drawing, Archie and Picasso (2018), Boshier’s familiar hollow face is stuffed with characters from the popular American comic strip as well as the haunting visage of the famed Modernist painter. The alternately anxious and anticipatory faces of the cartoons stand in stark contrast to the grim and portentous grimace of Picasso, a sketch that references one of the artist’s well-known, late self-portraits. Lines radiate out from the profiled face in energetic squiggles, animating with intensity as it appears about to crack open, spilling its pressurized contents into the abyss.

In his drawings in particular, Boshier abhors a vacuum, preferring to fill the composition with dense, fragmenting lines and figures, which are fractured like puzzle pieces amidst geometric voids, sometimes opening into spaces beyond themselves, like in drawings such as Tales from the Crypt Magazine (2018) and World Series (2020).

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Tales from the Crypt Magazine, 2018

Graphite on paper

8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

World Series, 2020

Graphite on paper

27 x 40 inches

Like Archie and Picasso (2018), Tales from the Crypt Magazine (2018) also references a classic Post-War comic, the bi-monthly, twenty-seven issue series which ran from 1950 to 1955. These mid-century vignettes are rendered as simple line drawings against white backgrounds, which pop out like jagged pieces whose frenetic edges fail to perfectly line up with one another.

World Series (2020) mimics the prior drawing’s compositional strategies, yet features a crosshatched background reminiscent of a 1970s Jasper Johns painting. Assorted vignettes seem to tumble across this crisscrossed background—their physicality artificially enhanced by irrational yet effective shading. The varied scenes ranges from images of Auschwitz to turbaned horse riders, ladybugs on leaflets, beetles, and even the gas giant Saturn, all of which appear as if torn from popular science or travel magazines.

In the wake of his success with Bowie, and the songbooks he did for The Clash the same year, a visiting lecture in Houston in 1980 would turn into an unexpected decades-long stay in the United States—thirteen in Texas alone. The same year marked his return to painting. Having begun to appreciate the historical painting he saw in museums, together with his desire to recapture the inherent physicality of the medium, Boshier created a series of ironic larger-than-life cowboys, prancing naked amid desert cityscapes.

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Between Sunset and Sunrise – Houston, 1980

Oil on canvas

42 x 55 inches

 

Between Sunset and Sunrise - Houston (1980) is a classic painting from this period. Depicting the skyline of Houston, it is either at sunrise or sunset, it is unclear from the picture, although this fact is cheekily referenced in the painting’s title. The surface is lusciously tactile, and what appear to be three floating mirages dance in front of the city’s looming skyline, containing within them caricatures of cowboy hats and boots, absent any wearers. The Houston skyline is later prominently featured as a backdrop in the album cover for Bowie’s Let’s Dance (1983), showing the musician inboxing gloves illuminated by a projection of a Derek Boshier work. Between Sunset and Sunrise - Houston (1980), like many others from the period, reflects, in the words of Marco Livingstone, the artist’s “raucous humor and pointed satire, agitated surfaces and sometimes irresistibly vulgar texan imagery.”

“How are watches, money, a hotel, a rifle, and two men connected? I do not think Boshier is trying to be obtuse in his work. Rather, it seems that he wants to reflect upon where we areat this moment in time, and what we might do with the time we have left.”

- John Yau

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Winchester 73, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

Themes of the American West continue to fascinate Boshier, and frequently appear in his paintings and drawings. Winchester 73 (2020) is a recent example, featuring a cowboy with a rifle, presumably a coin in his other hand, which appears disembodied from the main figure to the right. He looms over the porch of a hotel and saloon centered at the horizon, amidst a hail of wristwatches. Time is money, apparently, and this fellow seems eager to spend it as quickly as possible.

Layered compositions, like this one, as critic John Yau has noted, reference the technique of collage with which Boshier became so familiar in his years not painting. The entire composition quivers, all the forms possessing the same energetic, tightly-packed line quality, whether the background of sky and clouds, the woodgrain of the saloon, the stitching of the cowboy’s frilled sleeve, or the bands of the wristwatches, each frozen in a frenzied spinning around its axis.

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Snow (Video Gamers in the Snow)2019

Acrylic on canvas

72 x 60 inches

 

 

 

The Winchester Model 1873 was marketed as “The Gun that Won the West” and was a predecessor to today’s automatic rifles. A keen observer of popular culture and contemporary life, Boshier wryly comments on this uniquely American passion for violence, also something we can also glean from Snow (Video Gamers in the Snow) (2019), where macabre figures line up into the distance, punctuating the snow-filled vignettes amidst a neutral gray void. Violence, from mass shootings to first-person-shooter video games, are now a natural part of the American landscape, and images of it are deeply embedded in our national psyche.

Time, its passage, or lack thereof is referenced again in three large 24 1/2 x 32 inch graphite drawings including Alchemy, Alchemy (2018), The Miracle (2020), and Vladimir and Estragon: Time Spent (2020). The latter references the main characters from Waiting for Godot, a Modernist play by the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. This absurdist sense of humor is also reflected in his painting, Alfred Jarry, featuring scenes from the titular character’s life and works, rendered in shades of blue.

This homage to the inventor of “pataphysics” (along with his earlier invocation of Picasso) certainly situates Boshier within the legacy of the historical avant-garde, both in terms of formal as well as conceptual influence.

Slide-Show

Slide-Show Thumbnails
Alchemy Alchemy, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 3/4 x 38 inches

$10,000

Alchemy Alchemy, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 3/4 x 38 inches

$10,000

Inquire
The Miracle, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches

$8,000

The Miracle, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches

$8,000

Inquire
Vladimir and Estragon: Time Spent, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches 

$8,000

Vladimir and Estragon: Time Spent, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches 

$8,000

Inquire
Toothpaste Difficulty, 1962

Graphite on paper

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

$2,000

Toothpaste Difficulty, 1962

Graphite on paper

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

$2,000

Inquire
Falling Figure #1, 2018

Graphite on paper

4 x 6 inches

$2,000

Falling Figure #1, 2018

Graphite on paper

4 x 6 inches

$2,000

Inquire
Archie and Picasso, 2018

Graphite on paper

10 1/2 x 8 inches

$2,500

Archie and Picasso, 2018

Graphite on paper

10 1/2 x 8 inches

$2,500

Inquire
Tales from the Crypt Magazine, 2018

Graphite on paper

8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches

$2,500

Tales from the Crypt Magazine, 2018

Graphite on paper

8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches

$2,500

Inquire
World Series, 2020

Graphite on paper

27 x 40 inches

$12,000

World Series, 2020

Graphite on paper

27 x 40 inches

$12,000

Inquire
Winchester 73, 2020

Pencil on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$8,000

Winchester 73, 2020

Pencil on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$8,000

Inquire
Alchemy Alchemy, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 3/4 x 38 inches

$10,000

Alchemy Alchemy, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 3/4 x 38 inches

$10,000

The Miracle, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches

$8,000

The Miracle, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches

$8,000

Vladimir and Estragon: Time Spent, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches 

$8,000

Vladimir and Estragon: Time Spent, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/4 x 32 inches 

$8,000

Toothpaste Difficulty, 1962

Graphite on paper

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

$2,000

Toothpaste Difficulty, 1962

Graphite on paper

5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches

$2,000

Falling Figure #1, 2018

Graphite on paper

4 x 6 inches

$2,000

Falling Figure #1, 2018

Graphite on paper

4 x 6 inches

$2,000

Archie and Picasso, 2018

Graphite on paper

10 1/2 x 8 inches

$2,500

Archie and Picasso, 2018

Graphite on paper

10 1/2 x 8 inches

$2,500

Tales from the Crypt Magazine, 2018

Graphite on paper

8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches

$2,500

Tales from the Crypt Magazine, 2018

Graphite on paper

8 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches

$2,500

World Series, 2020

Graphite on paper

27 x 40 inches

$12,000

World Series, 2020

Graphite on paper

27 x 40 inches

$12,000

Winchester 73, 2020

Pencil on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$8,000

Winchester 73, 2020

Pencil on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$8,000

In the past few years, Boshier has produced large-scale compositions in wool, as if rendering drawings on a large scale, in a new, overtly tactile medium. This draws his tight and energetic compositions from the paper page into a more corporeal realm, threaded strands replacing graphite squiggles. In monumental works like Ghost of a Flea, 2021, Boshier once again invokes the work of Romantic English poet, painter, and printmaker William Blake, whose two-hundred year old miniature painting of the same name serves as the tapestry’s direct inspiration.

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Ghost of a Flea, 2021

Wool

96 x 70 inches

The muscular and nude Flea is depicted with a jutting tongue which gorges on a bowl of blood, stars streaking past. Part human, part vampire, and part reptile, the beast strides from right to left between heavy and richly patterned curtains, which Boshier has rendered in his version as flowing leaves. In his left hand he holds an acorn and in his right a thorn, both items drawn from the tradition of fairy iconography. His massive neck is similar to a bull’s, and he has a disproportionally small head, marked by glaring eyes, open jaws, and a slithering tongue. According to the art critic Jonathan Jones, the flea is depicted as an "evil, gothic, grotesque stalking through a starry realm between stage curtains.” Despite being a small painting, Blake’s metaphysical portrait possesses a monumental air, which is captured in Boshier’s appropriately large, woolen homage.

Thumb-Show

Thumb-Show Thumbnails
Between Sunset and Sunrise – Houston, 1980

Oil on canvas

42 x 55 inches

POR

Between Sunset and Sunrise – Houston, 1980

Oil on canvas

42 x 55 inches

POR

Inquire
Nude, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

 

Nude, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

 

Inquire
Alfred Jarry, 2020

Acrylic on cavnas

60 x 72 inches

POR

Alfred Jarry, 2020

Acrylic on cavnas

60 x 72 inches

POR

Inquire
And Also the World of Sports, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

And Also the World of Sports, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Inquire
Snow (Video Gamers in the Snow), 2019

Acrylic on canvas

72 x 60 inches

POR

Snow (Video Gamers in the Snow), 2019

Acrylic on canvas

72 x 60 inches

POR

Inquire
Mathmatica, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Mathmatica, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Inquire
Jean Igancio Isidore Grandville, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 1/4 inches

$10,000

Jean Igancio Isidore Grandville, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 1/4 inches

$10,000

Inquire
Possibilities of Nature, 2020

Acrylic on canvas

66 x 96 inches

POR

Possibilities of Nature, 2020

Acrylic on canvas

66 x 96 inches

POR

Inquire
Scriptonian, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Scriptonian, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Inquire
Between Sunset and Sunrise – Houston, 1980

Oil on canvas

42 x 55 inches

POR

Between Sunset and Sunrise – Houston, 1980

Oil on canvas

42 x 55 inches

POR

Nude, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

 

Nude, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

 

Alfred Jarry, 2020

Acrylic on cavnas

60 x 72 inches

POR

Alfred Jarry, 2020

Acrylic on cavnas

60 x 72 inches

POR

And Also the World of Sports, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

And Also the World of Sports, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Snow (Video Gamers in the Snow), 2019

Acrylic on canvas

72 x 60 inches

POR

Snow (Video Gamers in the Snow), 2019

Acrylic on canvas

72 x 60 inches

POR

Mathmatica, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Mathmatica, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Jean Igancio Isidore Grandville, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 1/4 inches

$10,000

Jean Igancio Isidore Grandville, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 1/4 inches

$10,000

Possibilities of Nature, 2020

Acrylic on canvas

66 x 96 inches

POR

Possibilities of Nature, 2020

Acrylic on canvas

66 x 96 inches

POR

Scriptonian, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Scriptonian, 2020

Graphite on paper

24 1/2 x 32 inches

$10,000

Garth Greenan Gallery is pleased to represent Derek Boshier.

Derek Boshier: Some Landscapes will be available to view online through April 12, 2024. For more information, please contact Garth Greenan Gallery at (212) 929-1351, or email info@garthgreenan.com.

Derek Boshier: Drawn From Life - March 14 – April 12 - Viewing Room - Garth Greenan Gallery Viewing Room

Possibilities of Nature, 2020

Acrylic on canvas

66 x 96 inches