Ian Davis: Strange Geometry at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects
Ian Davis, Vigil, 2009. Acrylic on canvas, 75 x 80 inches
Ian Davis: Strange Geometry
Ian Davis’s newest works form an absurdist theater in which little mysteries are enacted by large groups of men against the backdrops of anonymous institutions and forbidding landscapes. Since his first one-person exhibition at the gallery two years ago, Davis’s paintings have become increasingly complex and autobiographical. The minimalist geometry of his earlier work, now more intricate and entangled, supports darker narratives. Permeated with angst and anticipation, they reveal a critical imagination, contemplating the complexities of his own life, as well as the world around him. Davis continues to structure and pattern his paintings with formations of archetypal male figures: black-suited businessmen, soldiers in period costumes, scientists wearing white lab coats. Their clone-like homogeneity and regimented geometry evoke Orwellian images of totalitarian regimes and the dystopia of Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil. Its famous opening subtitle, “Somewhere in the 20th Century," could begin to describe many of Davis’s works: Somewhere in the 20th Century men are gathering . . . waiting and watching.
The intrigue in Ian Davis’s narratives is also achieved through the use of anachronistic juxtapositions. In Estimate (2007), typical 1950s “organization men” confront a grid of primitive machines in a nineteenth-century factory setting. In Excavation (2008), men outfitted in helmets and lab coats observe as an immense wooden ship is extracted from the earth by a large fluorescent orange crane. In another painting, a massive stone quarry is inspected by hundreds of men wearing midnight blue uniforms who stand by in groups or climb on ladders alongside electrical cords that are also painted fluorescent orange. The artist depicts the action in both paintings as graphically illuminated by clinical white lights from flood lamps or headlamps. Davis acknowledges that the birth of his first child in January of last year has had a profound effect on his art. The crane, ladders, and wires might then be understood as symbols of parturition, and the paintings, although partly inspired by photographs of actual occurrences, as metaphors for birth and rebirth.
Born in Indianapolis in 1972, Ian Davis has lived throughout the United States and currently maintains a studio in Hoboken, NJ. He received a BFA from Arizona State University in 1994 and held a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in 2005. Davis has participated in group and solo shows in the US and Europe and has been the subject of articles and reviews in publications such as Artforum, Art in America, New York Magazine, and The New York Times. Davis’s works are included in distinguished public and private collections in the US and Europe, such as the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS and the Saatchi Gallery, London. This is his second one-person exhibition at the gallery.