A scribble becomes a chicken becomes an ouroboros. A gremlin becomes a man with antlers becomes a stone monolith. Something vaguely resembling a minotaur becomes a stick figure who spills like spaghetti becomes a sock puppet held, strangled, by its throat. Does any of this make sense? Of course not. But also, totally, yes.
Let me try to explain. In the mid-1970s, the late David Weiss—who, with his friend Peter Fischli, would go on to form the delightful duo Fischli/Weiss—filled sheets of paper with progressions of whimsical, nonsensical line drawings wherein one sketch bleeds into the next. Throughout a selection of these drawings on view in “Metamorphoses” at Matthew Marks, Weiss extends each glyph just to the point where it breaks and then refashions it into something else. Each sheet comprises a kind of ridiculous exquisite corpse—except whereas the Surrealists swapped drawings as a way of articulating some collective unconsciousness, Weiss is talking to himself.
Or actually—and bear with me here—perhaps Weiss is in dialogue with the act of drawing. Stanley Whitney once described drawing as “a way to understand where things are in space,” but here Weiss’s subject remains mutable, fungible, contemptuous of Cartesian coordinates. (Some of the more legible works on graph paper compensate for their good geometry with fantastical monsters and cartoonish figures made of flame.) Weiss’s drawings are preposterous propositions, negotiations between the unexpected contours of the human mind and the dumb trace it leaves in ink. When he gestures with his pen, his drawing gestures back. —Will Fenstermaker
David Weiss, Untitled (from Wandlungen/Metamorphoses), 1975. Ink on paper, two sheets; Each 11¾ × 8¼ inches. Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery.