Sherman Sam, 'Duncan Marquiss' (Artforum Online, 01/07/2011)

Drawing is a practice to which the Scottish artist Duncan Marquiss has returned between his other creative endeavors (film, painting, and collage), and it is at the heart of his latest exhibition. Unlike his previous work, which includes delicately rendered figuration and explorations of cultural references, his latest show, “Distressed Inventory,” eschews narrative and representation for more abstract proposals.

The black-and-white film Midday, 2011, occupies the first gallery. This five-minute loop follows the artist’s hand as it runs along a gridded surface or pattern that is, in fact, the shadow cast by a wooden blind. The piece recalls early avant-garde film, particularly Maya Dere’s Meshes of the Afternoon as well as the repetitive simplicity of some Bruce Nauman videos. In the other space, the artist has tacked ten of his frottage-based drawings to the wall. These seem improvised, delicate, and nearly whimsical by virtue of their creation out of detritus and surplus from his studio (masking tape, film leader, paper clippings) and their constellations of simple lines and geometrical shapes that create floating planes and abstract fields. They are displayed unframed, which emphasizes the ease and vulnerability of drawing as a material process.

Is the movement of the hand in the video intended to recall the rubbings of the drawings? Are the patterns of the shadows there a counterpart to those lines that the hand has created on paper? Is this abstraction intended as a resistance against our need for narrative? In the end, the friction of questions pleasantly slows us down on our search for answers.