Susan Schwalb’s primary medium for over 40 years has been the Renaissance technique of silverpoint and metalpoint drawing. Juxtaposing a wide variety of metals—silver, gold, brass, copper, platinum, pewter, bronze, and aluminum—she obtains soft shifts of tone and color. Narrowly spaced grids serve as a spatial context for irregular events on the surface that create a shimmer of light. Depth seems to emerge from works that feature multiple square units arranged in layers. Many of Schwalb’s works have musical titles, which evolved intuitively. In part this is because she lives with a composer, and loves music. In part it is because she is alert to the parallel between music and her work, both rooted in abstraction. With illusions of depth and the subtle play of points of brightness, her metalpoint drawings evoke an atmosphere of serenity, and testify to how straight lines can create movement and a visual sound.
Susan Schwalb is one of the foremost figures in the current revival of the ancient technique of silverpoint drawing. Most of the contemporary artists who draw with a metal stylus continue the tradition of Leonardo and Dürer by using the characteristic soft, delicate line for figurative imagery. By contrast, Schwalb’s work is resolutely abstract, and her handling of the technique is extremely innovative.
Schwalb was born in New York City and studied at the High School of Music & Art, and at Carnegie-Mellon University.
Schwalb’s oeuvre ranges from drawings and artist books on paper to paintings on canvas or wood panels. Her work is represented in most of the major public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery, Washington DC, The British Museum, London, The Brooklyn Museum, NY, The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Kupferstichkabinett – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, The Achenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts at the de Young and the Legion of Honor Museums, San Francisco, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC, The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York, NY, The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA, Evansville Museum of Art and Science, the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AK and The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Susan Schwalb has been in residence at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (2010,’07, ‘92,’73), the MacDowell Colony (1989, ’75,’74), Yaddo, 1981 and in 1994 had two residencies in Israel at Mishkenot Sha’ananim, Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Artists’ Studios. She has had over 35 solo exhibitions nationally as well as internationally.
During 2015 the historical metalpoint exhibition entitled, “Drawing with Silver and Gold: From Leonardo to Jasper Johns”, opened at the National Gallery of Art, Wash. DC and then travel to The British Museum, London. Along with Jasper Johns and Bruce Nauman, Schwalb was one of only three living artists included in the show.