One can visit many a city and see Antoine Predock’s legacy.
Although some structures are monolithic, each has forward-thinking design and adds to the essence of the area.
From the George Pearl Hall of the School of Architecture at the University of New Mexico to the Spencer Theater in Alto, Predock has spent decades designing buildings not only in New Mexico, but across the world.
What is not widely known is Predock’s love of sketching – something he’s done in locations across the planet.
The exhibit opening is in conjunction with publication of a UNM Press book of the same name by Christopher Curtis Mead.
“The beginning of this project goes back to 2011,” Mead says. “It’s gone through various iterations, and part of the delay was due to us finding funding for the book. That’s when the Albuquerque Museum Foundation came to the rescue and provided the funding with the intent of it becoming an exhibit.”
Mead is also co-curator of the exhibit, along with Mira Woodson, who used to be Predock’s graphics editor.
As a student in the 1950s at the University of New Mexico, Predock regularly drifted from the architecture program (in engineering) over to the art department to study with sculptor and painter John Tatschl and painters Elaine De Kooning and Walter Kulhman.
These artists showed Predock how seeing and making ran together in a dialogue between visuality and materiality mediated by the human body: As De Kooning said at the time, ” ‘Painting’ to me is primarily a verb, not a noun, an event first and only secondarily an image.”
Carved by hand with a knife, in place of a drawing pen or brush, Predock’s clay models use a sculptural material to painterly effect, shaping form and space into planes of solid and void.
Predock says drawing is both a vehicle for understanding and a gestural act unto itself.
Recording an experience via drawing embodies more than an analytical intention.
“When I draw historic buildings, they are inaccurate in many ways,” Predock says. “My drawings are close, but they aren’t about detail or proportion. They are about the spirit of a building or a place, and the spirit embedded in the encounter and its translation. Drawing is a way of taking on a place, absorbing it, immersing myself in it.”
Predock says his early drawings – especially in the 1960s – were done while he was traveling on his motorcycle with only the bare essentials.
“I carried only a sketchbook and India ink and used objects I found on the site as drawing tools – bird feathers or twigs or Popsicle sticks that I sharpened with a knife,” he says. “Whatever was there, I drew with. An important part of the encounter was actually finding these artifacts and drawing with them. Later, I added a tiny watercolor kit. I didn’t start making brush drawings with pastel until I discovered the brush pen, which is easy to travel with because it involves no cleanup.”
Predock sees the making of architecture and traveling as one interwoven experience.
“Assimilating different places, observing the atmospheres in different locales in the world, both real and imagined, are all journeys,” Predock says. “These assimilations and observations accumulate and comprise the foreground for making architecture – beginning while I was a student and continuing now.”
The exhibit will show more than 300 pieces, including both sketches and clay models.
“We scared the museum a little bit with how many things he had over the course of decades,” Mead says. “It took us months and months to go through 10,000 or so pieces. Picking 300 doesn’t scratch the surface of what Antoine has done.”
Mead says the exhibit was designed chronologically.
“It’s a continuous line,” Mead says. “It’s about how one line leads to the next. We’re looking for how the rhythms carry through his work.”
“Sometimes when I draw a building, especially one I’ve done over and over and over again from one vantage point, like the Pantheon, it becomes burned into my system, as if it were a signature. I sign the building. I haven’t analyzed the building, but I have felt it and I have translated it. I often think that my drawing, the physical act of drawing, in terms of comfort level and freedom, should correspond closely to how I sign my name” – Antoine Predock