Upcoming Exhibition: NewCelle
May 18 @ 10:00 am - July 8 @ 4:00 pm
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve (AAWR) is pleased to announce its upcoming Summer exhibition, NewCelle, featuring the collaborative drawings of Archived Artist Bea Mitchell, John Jackson, Ed Mieczkowski and Achala Wali.
NewCelle formed as a group in 1998 with the purpose of “revitalizing drawing in the light of the coming new Millennium.” Lead by influential Op Artist Ed Mieczkowski, what began as a communal “experiment in drawing” lasted over four years, producing a unique body of work that indelibly touched the lives of its participants.
From early in his career, Mieczkowski “extolled the virtues of artist groups as a viable way to generate ideas.” NewCelle was directly preceded by two Mieczkowski-lead collectives, Anonima, which played a prominent role in the emergence of Op Art in the mid 1960’s, and Drawing in the Community, which emerged from a class taught by Mieczkowski at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Bea Mitchell & John Jackson, both CIA graduates, and Achala Wali were part of this early effort. Ultimately, Jackson and Mieczkowski took issue with Drawing in the Community’s loose organization and the participants lack of technical training, many of whom, in Jackson’s words, were “not visual artists.”
While NewCelle was shaped by its predecessors, it was distinct in its rigid and experimental process of production. Influenced by the Surrealist’s technique of psychic automatism (automatic drawing), the members of NewCelle would take turns working on a single surface, drawing a solitary line then passing the piece to their fellow-artist for the 2nd line to be laid and so forth. Each time the group met, a new piece was introduced until a full 9 works were in rotation.
With this technique, Mieczkowski hoped to transcend “mere collaboration” in pursuit of what NewCelle called a “shared mind.” He believed, “shared minds could provocatively explore theories of chaos and complexity,” two interests he pursued with vigor throughout his career.
To more closely examine chaos and the collective mind, NewCelle chose to eliminate all extraneous elements from their work and focus on the property of line. Jackson explained, “we decided that LINE, the singular domain of drawing, was our subject; and that other properties–color, texture and value–would assume minor roles, if any. A fifth property, shape, would be that which adheres to the line. The potential for interaction both verbally and graphically was infinite, chaotic and stimulating. Complexities abounded.”
Above all, the group was governed by a single aesthetic principle- the entirety of the drawing had to remain within a circle, a barrier which is visible in the finished work as a thin graphite or ink ring keeping individual parts bound by the collective.
While the work of NewCelle was intended to reflect the communal, elements of the individual artists remained immutable. Bea Mitchell described it as, “In any particular one of the drawings you can pick out who drew the first line, the second and the third.”
Ultimately, Mieczkowski left for the West coast to pursue his solo endeavors and the group dissolved under the weight of what Jackson politely described as a “provocative mix of dispositions.” A short time later, John Jackson tragically died in 2006 a double murder that also took the life of photographer Masumi Hayashi and shook the Cleveland artistic community to its core.
Though NewCelle lasted only a few years, they produced a singular body of work and enriched both the lives and careers of its participants. In the words of Bea Mitchell, “I could tell a number of interesting stories that would reveal how I found, not only my own line, but my own voice.”
The exhibition will open on May 18th, 2017 and will feature both the communal works of NewCelle, as well as pieces done by each individual artist. An Artists’ Reception will be held on Thursday, May 25th from 5:30-8:00pm to mark the occasion.