Greenville County Museum of Art

Greenville, SC



James Valerio: Drawings


Contemporary realist James Valerio uses pencil and paper to create the lush texture of a Turkish towel or the care-lined brow of a middle-aged woman in a selection of graphite drawings which will be on display in James Valerio: Drawings from May 12 through July 2, 2000, at the Greenville County Museum of Art. (right: Tom's Choice,1991, Oil on Linen, 6.0 x 7.0 inches)

A native of Chicago and a professor at Northwestern University, Valerio is among America's most critically acclaimed realist painters, and his work is included in major public collections such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His meticulous graphite drawings are much fewer in number-but no less stirring in their super-realistic quality. "When I decide to make a drawing, the first thing I think of it what kind of paper I'll use," Valerio said in an interview published a few years ago in Drawing. "I'll consider the hardness or softness of the paper, plus the particular surface of the paper, which in itself gives hills and valleys. I will go to great lengths to find a paper that will work with what I have in mind."(left: Towel, 1996, Pencil on Paper, 23.0 x 29.0 inches)

Texture and shading play an equal role with line in Valerio's drawings, which are so richly detailed as to seem almost photographic. Ed (1996) is a finely woven graphite portrait, thinning hair detailed exactly and facial sheen rendered flawlessly. Fear (1996) presents the nude and sinewy upper torso of a middle-aged woman, her faced framed by a mane of coarse and wavy hair. Her hand is raised in self-protection, but the title is captured as much in the model's eyes as in that gesture. (left: Ed, 1996, Pencil on Paper, 36.0 x 21.5 inches)

"My drawings are done as an end in themselves," the 62-year-old Valerio said in the interview for Drawing. "There is nothing I fear now to paint or draw, but it has to be something real, something that actually exists, because I want to use that realness to call back memories and feelings." Valerio told another interviewer that he also starts every painting with a line drawing. "I feel that I am drawing when I am painting anyway," he said. "I want the basic drawing to be a good drawing on its own, even though I am going to lose it when I paint over it. But lately I have been doing more drawings for their own sake, because they help me think about things."

Valerio's output in graphite and paper is quite limited, and the exhibition James Valerio: Drawings brings together these rare examples to present a noteworthy study of a mature American artist who is still exploring the possibilities of the most fundamental medium.

The Valerio exhibition was organized with cooperation of the George Adams Gallery.

Images courtesy of George Adams Gallery

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 2/1/11

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