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Art review: Noah Davis at Roberts & Tilton

January 30, 2010 |  2:00 pm

400.Davis_1984_6655 At first, Noah Davis' exhibition at Roberts & Tilton looks like  another rehash of Surrealism seen through the lens of gestural painting. Dream-like compositions and appropriated imagery are executed with a vague, casual hand. But spend some time with these lushly colored images and they begin to divulge intriguing, partial, but surprisingly emotional narratives that push the paintings beyond faux-naive Surrealism to touch upon harsher realities.

Many of the images refer to Richard Brautigan's 1968 novella, "In Watermelon Sugar," a fantastical account of life in and around a commune built on the ruins of a former civilization. A standout is "Inboil," an image of a lanky figure against a dark, stage-like background,  his raised right thigh nothing but bone. In the novella, Inboil is a rebel who commits suicide, and Davis' portrait captures an isolated and sepulchral air that seems suitably post-apocalyptic.

Yet one needn't know the novella to pick up on the sense of isolation and mortality that runs through the show. One painting of a pajama-clad child sitting on a bed carries the warm, nostalgic charge of a family photograph, even though the child's face has been flattened out into a skeletal white mask. The image is both tender and disturbing, and it's hard to say exactly why.

400.Davis_WhatWeDidtotheElephantintheRoom_6663 In another painting, two men cut apart the carcass of an elephant. Cheekily titled "What We Did to the Elephant in the Room," it's echoed on the opposite wall by "What They Did to Themselves," an image of two soldiers kneeling over the body of a young man. One soldier appears to hold the young man's arm, which has morphed into a grayish orifice resembling an elephant's trunk. The play between the two paintings makes an almost subconscious connection between slaying the unspoken and the unspeakable cost of war.

– Sharon Mizota

Roberts & Tilton, 5801 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (323) 549-0223, through Feb. 20. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.robertsandtilton.com

Images: 1984(top) and What We Did To the Elephant in the Room. Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton.

Comments () | Archives (2)

Despite her pretentious "street creed" promo video at her gallery website and Nora Davis an artist who has something promising, but in my mind she is hampered by poor foundation skills. My usual conjecture is it’s those lack of skills that make the artist acceptable to review. I hope she gets better anyway.

Just got back from the Pacific Design Center, what a waste, and cant believe I went to it and missed the Thiebaud show. I should have gone to Pasadena. His cakes and early stuff dont do much for me, they are really studies, learning and building a language, which he later developed into the wonderful paintings of San Franciso streets. Planes tilted to the picture plane, color alive and layered, relationships of line, color and form built, he is a modern, not a contempt artist. The paint cans showed the way.

This above is insipid in not just the awkward and stiff drawing, no energy to it at all, typical of todays kids. By the way, the frosted movie stills and daubings on top of them at Blum and Poe were just that, no drawing involved at all, just copying soft mushiness with blobs of unrelated color and forms with out strucutre and substance, now that takes skill and a singularity of purposelessness that defies believe.

It is perhaps the complete and total ignorance of color that reveals a hollowness of soul in these works. NO passion, no built up layers of color in chords of richness that instill the breathe of life in the colored mud. No art at all, as by definition it proviokes emotions, i feel none. And the things just sits there. When a bright color is used it has others of absolutely no relationship building properties around it. They just sit there. Dead things. Merchandise. The ignorance of colors possibilities is quite amazing, what have they been looking at all these years?

You and I William are the only ones here who put our arses on the line, we provide links, you can see what we are talking about. Color, passionate, rich, soul confirming color, tied through with energetic line, creating a structure layerd as a reflection of the world we live in. I see art school daubings, unrelated to any world i have been in, sheltered, shrivled, lifeless. Souless.

Sad. Thiebaud had it, Park too, Diebendorn even more. That really sucks about his show. Tamayo, going back to the lyrical mythologies of Gauguin and Redon. Monets amazing living light producing, internal energizing, breathing, huge water lilies. Cezannes hard observation of nautre, strving for god. Where are these things? Where is the power of Michelangelo? The sensuality of Raphael, the graphic power of Japanese screens, the mysteries of african and Oceanic connections to the spiritual world. The discipline and poetry of Klee.

These kids simply dont try very hard,or certainly study thier craft. Their goals are low. If yo dont try you cant fail, I ahve been noticing this more with each generation. They want to party, to have a arty lifestyle, not produce art of mankind defining ritual, of natures structural revelation, of gods life affirming power. It is career, not rocking the boat. Doing what one is told, and not asking any quyestions taht might make one think, ponder, and do. It is about nothingness, just being. Being There exactly, looks like Ronald Reagan and pals won, the true Chauncey Gardner. These are our prophets. God help us.

art collegia delenda est


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