Over the past two decades, Dan Fischer (b. 1977, Brooklyn, New York) has developed a distinct body of work that explores the nature of photography, appropriation and mythology through meticulously produced graphite-on-paper drawings. Focusing on well-known, often iconic representations of artists and artworks, Fischer uses photographs as his starting point. The richly textured, monochromatic drawings he creates replicate these source materials, which the American artist has defined as ‘incredible images from the past 100 years of art history’.
Fischer has depicted a diverse range of figures to date, including Lygia Clark and Philip Guston in their studios; Andy Warhol appearing before his ‘Flowers’ series; Pablo Picasso at work on Guernica (1937); and self-portraits of Ana Mendieta, Gillian Wearing and Hannah Wilke. Similarly, artworks rendered by Fischer, such as Jeff Koons’s Rabbit (1986) and Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), are selected for their stature – objects so synonymous with their creator that they almost function as portraits in themselves.
Grounding Fischer’s practice is his own personal relationship with the history of art. The act of appropriation reflected through the artist’s creative process is more concerned with homage, than it is with mimicry or critique. ‘I try to reproduce the excitement of a special moment or location in art history, and to celebrate the role of artists as myth, or as icon’. Fischer is not reliant on a particular system when selecting the images he chooses to duplicate, yet nonetheless has a criteria. ‘I can say that I only draw artists or artworks that have inspired or moved me.’
Fischer’s use of photocopies forms a critical aspect of his methodology. Describing this approach as ‘Xerox Realism’, the artist makes paper reproductions of the photographs he recreates, found in books and journals, which he works from directly. ‘Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of photocopies of artists and artworks; I have my own private Xerox archive.’
The grid is also essential to Fischer’s compositions, as a structural and formal device. The artist was initially led to this geometric format during his undergraduate studies in Fine Art at Alfred University, New York (1999), where he was instructed to make raster-type drawings – images created through the use of parallel lines. The beginning stages of Fischer’s process revolve around the creation of a grid over the photocopied picture; a grid of the same scale is then made on a blank piece of paper. ‘After that, it’s just a matter of transferring the image, concentrating on drawing one little box at a time.’ The extensive production of these abstract forms, in each box of the frame, eventually results in a unique image.
Fundamental as a compositional aid, the grid also allows Fischer ‘the pleasure of getting lost in the details of my favourite imagery.’ As a visible component within the drawing, it is a reminder of the artist’s labour-intensive, technical process, which emphasises the status of the work as a drawing, rather than a photograph. Similarly, although Fischer’s drawings possess a hyper-realist quality, his portrayals transform the original photograph that is being reproduced, through vivid variations in tone and texture. ‘There’s something about worked graphite on paper that feels very personal and accessible,’ Fischer has remarked. ‘Some people have said that the surface of the drawings have a velvety quality. The touch of graphite can be a very seductive thing.’