Migration — Bob Blog

Monday, August 11, 2008

Again delayed by a major thunderstorm. No space between thunder and lightning. Hail clanking against the windows. Quite dramatic.
There’s a piece of a clipping I’ve been saving for more than five years now. It’s a little drawing in blue ball point. When I first saw it, I thought the artist had drawn a cute little raggedy a-line dress with eyes. A second glance, and I realized it was a cat. To be specific, it was a cat named “Second Son of Bob,” created by Bill Adams.
Bob II appeared in a New York Times preview of an exhibit at K.S. Art called “Ballpoint Inklings.”
None of the other drawings accompanying the article evoked the same reaction. In fact I didn’t save any of the others, though I liked “Radisson,” simply for the idea that Elizabeth Murray created it on hotel scratch paper. (That little convenience may have gone the way of free pillows on airplanes, as I noticed no paper in my last couple hotel stays.) And Thomas Tulcensky’s “Untitled” has the airy flow of multi-layered Möbius Strips but it didn’t grab me the way little Bob did, either.
I certainly appreciate the difficulties and limitations imposed by ballpoint, a medium in which I avoid writing if at all possible. These slippery lightweight bits of plastic lack the flexibility of oil, acrylic. The breadth and depth of the line much is much harder to control, and with the exception of Bob II, the images are monochromatic unless one changes pens. Adams managed to give Bob the natural shadings of shadings of a cat’s fur without changing pens. But beyond his brilliant technique, Bob II appeals to something in me that I needed to figure out.
For all that he is exceedingly rough around the edges, Bob II captures the essence of feline. His erect posture, mouth pursed, ears in listening mode. At the same time he’s extremely unfeline, mostly about the eyes, which have a human quality, quizzical, quite serious, a little sad.
Lyle Rexer said the drawing had “a whimsical, almost manic intricacy.” I got the whimsical, and the intricacy – after all, it must have taken a few hundred thousand pen strokes, and the little areas of light indicating his whiskers, chin hairs and eyebrows define felinity. But manic? Maybe it’s just manic to draw with ballpoint. I don’t see Bob II as manic. For true mania, try “Untitled, 2007.”
Elsewhere, the Times called Adams’s animal renderings “goofy yet sophisticated.” I don’t find anything goofy about Second Son of Bob except my own first reaction. That I’d actually wear a dress that looked like Bob – minus the eyes and whiskers of course.
As his name indicates, Bob has relatives, other Bob cats. They’re all terrific, but not as appealing to me as he is.
And some of them are downright terrifying.

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