Masha Sha’s drawings are made in stillness alternating with something like fever, with words built of lanky linear planks unfolding at angles.
Masha Sha: Fall
October 15–December 3, 2022
Warehouse 1-10, Magdalena, New Mexico
Marks in a drawing are like footsteps—most go uncounted. The accumulation of marks in Masha Sha’s exhibition at Warehouse 1-10 in Magdalena, New Mexico reveals a paradox: every stroke reveals movement, yet the artist who plied them down and piled them up is relatively stationary while doing so.
I imagine these drawings are made in stillness alternating with something like fever, the repetitive actions of the wrist uniting all states of mind, the sound of graphite sticks and crayons losing themselves to paper. It’s a reciprocal activity—what the instrument loses, the paper gains. The activity seems akin to ploughing and planting at times; at other times, it’s like an opaque excavation in which nothing is uncovered except where the marks are not made—the negative space that frequently forms the words that are the subject of these drawings. That is, if subject is a notion that can emerge in the midst of such intense process, without that process itself becoming the subject.
BOILING NOMAD BLOOD (2017), the phrase of choice in an early piece in this body of work, confirms a sense that this work is at least somewhat about wanderlust… or restlessness. And there is that paradox again, the arriving without leaving.
The repetitive attention these drawings require comes close to turning the tracing paper to crepe. Thousands of marks made hard, as if to chisel through to a find in an archaeological dig, all the while focusing on anything except the object that is the subject—the oversized emphatic words. The mark maker seems convinced that the truth buried in these terms is beneath the surface.
The words are built of lanky linear planks unfolding at angles: Ls, Ws, Ts, etc. Strait-narrow, animated, trembling, the exposed surface of paper is enlivened by the frenetic sea of graphite that surrounds it.
These drawings, made between 2019 and 2022, tease and squeeze meaning from phrases like OTHERS TEARS WATER / CALAMITY KEEPS ME YOUNG / HOME SICK SICK HOME / ALWAYS BLAME OTHERS FOR EMPTINESS YOURS. Some are installed outside, where they billow and crinkle in the wind and will speak if you stand before them.
By simply inverting the first letter in the word TRUST, the T becomes humanoid. The top of the T now resembles the feet of a stick-figure refugee from a giant flip book, caught in the act of exposing the inevitable, as if a freeze-frame of the deterioration inherent in life—the ꓕ seemingly about to kick RUST on the heel. It’s almost a gnawing away at meanings mis-read or mis-heard, an attempt to recover something or at least get a glimpse of it. Meanwhile, the R takes a tentative step toward the U suspended from the top edge like a supersized tongue, licking at the tip of a pregnant S, the final T restoring the previous inversion.
In the end, language barely scratches the surface, but the artist will continue to do so.