The Dark Palimpsest of Joseph Nechvatal

by Edit DeAk






Joseph Nechvatal makes drawings out of a surfeit of culturally circulating images and echoes, the very substratum that this reproducible age has left behind. The saturation of imagery provokes a perceptual deciphering and refinding of the vast pictographic vocabularies sedimented in his graphic burial ground.

Nechvatal accepts drawing as a given, as a metaphoric devise. Its associative power is its formal logic. His drawings derive from other drawings derived from other drawings, such is the nature of his palimpsest. An Etch-a-Sketch toy, with its silvery screen, erases and reconstructs its images while at the same time leaving faint traces and murky grooves in its deposits. Its background represents time because the strokes have vanished whereas with Nechvatals backgrounds, the strokes are not entirely erased. These are only cultural notations that disappear and reappear as we scan these fields of dense allusion. Nechvatals work seems congested with metallic, industrial static, as if the nuclear apocalypse he dreads so had already spread its thick, claustrophobic fall-out everywhere.




This text is from an essay "The Critic Sees through the Cabbage Patch" which appeared in Artforum April 1984 and which was used then in the Motives catalogue which was held at the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo NY