03 August 2016

Ballpoint Art

Ballpoint Art
Concetto Spaziale
Ballpoint Art, by Trent Morse, is billed as "the first compendium of art made with ballpoint pens." The book begins with a concise history of ballpoint art, followed by profiles of thirty contemporary artists who create abstract patterns and meticulous still life drawings with ballpoint pens.

Richard Klein curated the Ballpoint Pen Drawing Since 1950 exhibition in Connecticut in 2013, and his catalogue covers the same ground as Ballpoint Art. Neither of them provides a comprehensive study of the subject, though Morse's book has more material than Klein's slim catalogue.

Morse interviewed Klein for Ballpoint Art, and quotes him on the early history of the medium: "Fontana was the first artist to use ballpoint pen, in 1946". Lucio Fontana's Concetto Spaziale, from that year, is reproduced in both Klein and Morse's books.

In his catalogue, Klein described Alighiero Boetti as a pioneer of ballpoint art: "Boetti's drawings with the pen are the first to dramatically revel in the unmistakable blue of ballpoint ink." He gave Jan Fabre particular credit for his devotion to ballpoint: "Fabre is the first artist to totally embrace the pen as a medium, completing hundreds of ballpoint works between 1977 and 1992, with drawings varying in scale from the intimate to the architectural."

Interviewed in Ballpoint Art, Fabre explains his fascination with ballpoint drawing: "I like the chemical quality of the blue ink from a Bic ballpoint pen". He also compares Biro ink to lapis lazuli: "The blue of the ballpoint pen is connected to the history of art." Similarly, Boetti's blue colour field drawings are echoes of Yves Klein's International Klein Blue paintings.