Deb Sokolow: Contemporary Art Museums Contain a Number of Cavernous Spaces

Deb Sokolow, Contemporary Art Museums Contain a Number of Cavernous Spaces, 2019. 11x14 inches. Graphite, colored pencil, pastel, crayon, and collage on paper.

Deb Sokolow, Contemporary Art Museums Contain a Number of Cavernous Spaces, 2019. 11x14 inches. Graphite, colored pencil, pastel, crayon, and collage on paper.


Deb Sokolow is a Chicago-based artist whose drawings blend fact with fiction and speculate both comically and critically on a number of subjects including architecture and shadowy histories. Sokolow has exhibited at the Van Abbemuseum, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, The Drawing Center in New York, a MATRIX exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and in Chicago at Western Exhibitions and Museum of Contemporary Art. Her work can be found in permanent collections such as the Hirshhorn Museum and Los Angeles County Museum of Art and in Phaidon’s Vitamin D2 survey on contemporary drawing. 

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“Deb Sokolow examines the relationship between institution and architecture in her work, Contemporary Art Museums Contain a Number of Cavernous Spaces (2019). Visually, her drawing speaks the language of a rough architectural diagram. In a pared-down perspectival view, she employs simple, geometric line work. Lightweight marks that extend beyond the delineated borders of the walls, floor, and roof evoke the process of drafting with a straightedge. Washes of color breathe life into a loose elevation view of the same structure. Hand lettered annotations reinforce vague spatial elements by naming “cavernous spaces,” “a building shell,” and “a measurement.” She captures the essence of the space, offering a rendering that, with its many undefined variables, could stand in for any contemporary art exhibition venue. In doing so, Sokolow invites critical questions: Are all these spaces, in essence, interchangeable? Are the “grandiose experiences” they invite meaningful? Could we perhaps make substantive encounters with contemporary art available to more people by unpairing the institution from its exhibition space?” From Laura Holzman’s Contemporary Art, Out of Place