Alan Cristea Gallery will present the first ever exhibition of drawings by the conceptual artist Michael Craig-Martin from 5 May until 4 June 2011. To be staged in the year that Craig-Martin celebrates his 70th birthday, the show spans four decades of his career; none of the 60 unique drawings, including studies for major works and commissions, have ever been seen in the public domain and this exhibition represents the first time that this aspect of his work has been brought together and documented. All the works are hand-drawn, with the majority pre-dating his use of the computer - but will also include wall drawings which he will prepare in situ in the Alan Cristea Gallery ahead of the opening of the show, using his traditional technique of black masking tape.
This exhibition tracks the development of his signature artistic 'vocabulary' of everyday ordinary objects including globes, sandals, pianos, tables, chairs and books, and gives new insight into his innovative and radical artistic practice, from early works made of tape on drafting film, to those produced at the dawn of the digital age, which challenged and changed the concept of drawing as we know it.
Many of the drawings to be shown are studies for realised works and commissions, including what is probably Craig-Martin's most famous work - An Oak Tree (1973), consisting of an ordinary glass of water on an equally plain shelf, with a text that asserts the superiority of the artist's intention over the object itself; now in the Tate Collection, this work is recognized as a defining moment in the development of conceptual art. Also included is Study for a neon drawing of an endlessly opening book for Margate, 1974, for his first public commission, an outdoor neon sculpture for Margate Library; the work, called Turning Pages, was commissioned by Kent County Council and the Arts Council; it made in 1975 but was allowed to decay beyond repair. In 2010, the work was remade by the artist for the 2011 opening of the new Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate, to be formally opened on the 16 April 2011.