What got me were the delicate cuttings, within one-inch-square, that are abstract while also having the power of some surreal narrative. These are not jokes, like Tim Hawkinson’s oeuvre, but a new sensibility at work that takes man’s mark-making traditions in new ways, with subtle nods to the past, distant and near – such as his play on Brillo boxes, or musings with the surfaces of apples. Even better, the manner in which the show is laid out – languorous in its use of space and yet disciplined in its requirement of close viewing – makes for a beautiful bit of curation.
Newly augmenting the second half of the outside-curated “Illustrious Mr. X” show in the Dorsky’s east galleries is a truly funny eye-opener of a show of sculptural pieces, paintings, still photos and videos, “The Upstate New York Olympics,” by Bard professor Tim Davis. And what a joyful mash-up of belly-laugh humor, insightful takes on modernity and outright physical accomplishment this is. In a variety of ways, Davis creates and enacts a wide range of personal sports, all shown on simultaneously running video monitors and projections.
The events? Cross-Country Basketball, Dumpster Dive, Snowman Jiu-Jitsu, Porta-Potty Triple Jump, Drive-in Movie Tennis, Mattress Spring Trampoline, Float Crawl, Vanity License Plate Lick, Real Estate Steeplechase, Lawn Jockey Leapfrog…There are dozens of events, and all are mastered matter-of-factly, without laughter. In Flagpole Grapple, Davis shimmies up a series of flagpoles in people’s yards, out front of local fire departments, in vest-pocket parks surrounded by traffic. He surfs puddles with full-body slams. He balances on mailboxes. He rolls haybales across a field.
“Tim Davis, like his predecessors, draws from the landscape of the region to make his art. Davis, again like his predecessors, is an artist of his time,” writes Dorsky director Sara Pasti of this rising artist’s new body of work, premiering in New Paltz. “He uses the contemporary tools of video and digital imagery to record his vision of the landscape of churches, barns, empty warehouses and the rural, urban and suburban neighborhoods of the Hudson Valley…Having seen Davis images, we will never again see a lawn ornament in a yard in upstate New York without imagining Tim jumping over it.”
“I am a photographer, and can’t help noticing how potent the search for significance is,” Davis himself wrote a few years back. “The absurd task of imposing a rectangle on the flow of the world, and calling that rectangle important, seems to have no end and no zenith. The world’s things are only integers, with infinite other numbers between them, infinite narratives. If you put an orange on a table and ask 15 college freshmen to photograph it – as I do every year – you will end up with 15 different sets of significance, 15 meanings. The camera is mechanical and horny; it doesn’t care what you put in front of it. But it loves everything thoroughly, from only one vantage point, so there are as many expressions of that camera’s love as there are points in space to photograph from. The narrative flow appears to be bottomless.”
Even my five-year-old, Milo, was mesmerized by these works and wanting to find new means of exercising and claiming trophies for himself after seeing them.
Also opening at the Dorsky this weekend is “Thick and Thin,” the first regional exhibit of works by the Stone Ridge-based couple Ken Landauer and Julianne Swartz, rising stars (like Maggi and Davis) on the international scene. According to press about the show, which was still lined up against walls and under wraps when seen this week, Landauer’s drawings and objects play with scale and humor to provoke realizations about people’s expectations about representation and abstraction. Swartz’s sculptures, installations and architectural interventions, meanwhile, “shift our perceptions of space, form and light.”
All of these great new exhibits demonstrate the wild fun and underlying seriousness of Dorsky curator Brian Wallace’s vision, which seems to be on a creative roll of late. There will be an opening reception for the Landauer and Swartz show this Friday, April 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information on the lot of it, including regular and vacation hours, call the Dorsky at (845) 257-3844 or visit www.newpaltz.edu/museum.