Huffpost Arts

22 Famous Artists Draw The United States From Memory

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In 1971 a Japanese artist by the name of Hisachika Takahashi asked 22 of America's most recognizable artists to draw a map of the United States... from memory. Big names like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Lawrence Weiner participated in the project, drawing or painting their own versions of the U.S. without any references or atlases to guide them.

rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed verso, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

The results of this 30-year-old project are going on view in New York City for the first time this week, featuring an array of cartography-inspired artworks that range from near-identical likeness of the good ol' US of A to sardonic interpretations of what America meant to famous conceptual artists of the 1970s. While Rauschenberg attempted to tediously trace the lines of the miniature country, pop art protagonist James Rosenquist illustrated a hefty check made out to the order of Takahashi. Twombly effortlessly scribbled a vague but familiar outline, and Dorothea Rockburne sketched a three-dimensional cube filled with arbitrary locations like Chambers Street in New York and Black Mountain in North Carolina.

"Artists don’t follow memory; they have their own conception of it," Takahashi explained in an interview with The Huffington Post. "[In 'From Memory'] some artists made conceptual work, some drawings originated from their childhoods; some followed the shape of the U.S. as automatic drawings; some used nostalgia and ideas of the future."

Born in 1940, Takahashi was a studio assistant for Robert Rauschenberg and Lucio Fontana, as well as a chef at Gordon Matta-Clark's restaurant Food. Having moved to the United States from Japan with limited language skills and a taste for America's conceptual art making cadres, he used the simple outline of the U.S. as a point of departure for his own art project, beginning with his unique representation of the country.

taka

Hisachika Takahashi's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

"I thought the shape of the U.S. was beautiful, and I wanted to explore these artist’s ideas of history, fantasy and
imagination," he said. "I knew so many artists at that time. I just knocked on the doors of the ones I admired and everyone happily agreed to collaborate."

"From Memory," which heads to Sean Kelly Gallery today, is the ultimate marriage of purely visual and conceptual art, demonstrating how personal knowledge can shape memory and aesthetic. Physical images converge with mental associations, as artists prove that the very concrete and iconic territory of the U.S. can be molded by a person's unique experience.

Takahashi's last words on the project? "I am sorry I missed Warhol and Lichtenstein."

ros

James Rosenquist's drawing (recto) for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

ku

Joseph Kosuth's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed verso, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

tomb

Cy Twombly's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed verso, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

rock

Dorothea Rockburne's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

matt

Gordon Matta-Clark's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

down

Juan Downey's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 22 3/4 x 17 1/2 inches (57.8 x 22.5 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

boch

Mel Bochner's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

taka

Brice Marden's drawing for "From Memory, Draw a Map of the United States", 1971-2, paper dimensions: 17 1/2 x 22 3/4 inches (44.5 x 57.8 cm), signed recto, © the artist, Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York

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