NEW YORK, NY.- Venus Over Manhattan
is presenting Hurly-Burly, the gallerys first solo exhibition by the New York-based artist David Deutsch, presented jointly with Eva Presenhuber. The collaborative show features 40 works across the two spaces, locat at 55 Great Jones Street and 39 Great Jones Street, respectively.
David Deutsch makes abstract paintings. Or maybe he makes figurative paintings.
Which is right? Neither? Both? There are still serious people out there who see abstraction and the image as irreconcilable. They could even be rightthough I doubt itbut even if so, one of the remarkable things about art is its capacity to harbor irreconcilable propensities within a single object. Thats because, despite all appearances, art approaches truth; and we should remember the observation once made by the physicist Niels Bohr, that while the opposite of a trivial truth is false, the opposite of a profound truth is another truth. With that in mind, we hold that abstraction and images are two authentic paths to artistic truth.
Recently, when Deutsch and I were talking in his studio, he remarked, I leave itwith the word it referring, I believe, the composition as a whole, but theres always some kind of content with subject matter, and this content is embodied in the imagery woven into the paintings web of fluid marks. Given the small size of many of the figuresas well as cars and housesI couldnt help but think of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century paintings such as those of Claude Lorrain, in which a few figures nestled into the composition served to elevate the secondary (and fundamentally abstract) genre of landscape to the dignity of history painting. But I dont want this comparison to imply that Deutschs figures are afterthoughts, mere accessories; he intends them quite differently. My figures are never incidental, he told Jarrett Earnest. I guess they are concentrating on what they are doing. But what exactly, in these recent paintings of his, is it that they are doing?
I think these people are fundamentally looking. And observing. And exposing themselves to the tumults of the world that surrounds them. That does take concentration. As observers, they can be understood to be reflections of the viewer, whose incorporation into the scopic structure of the work is thereby emblematized. You cant construct a story out of the representational elements in Deutschs paintings, nor out of the relation between those elements and the nonrepresentational ones. The paintings content is not narrative. But it is human, and it has to do with existence in a world that does not necessarily seem intended for ones habitation. Is this even a place? Or how can it be made into a place? It can feel messy, disorienting, but one senses an underlying will to orderI hesitate to cite Wallace Stevens subtly oxymoronic rage to order, but there can be a sense of fury in Deutschs strenuous marks.
Those marks also raise the question about how an image is embodied in paint. Most of Deutschs recent paintings have been made using an unusual process whereby acrylic paint is applied first onto a plastic sheet, then transferred to the canvas. Painting onto the plastic is a time-based process like most other ways of paintinga temporal sequence of marks that becomes a spatial one, and a spatial arrangement that suggests a dynamic perceptual succession. But then in the second stage of Deutschs process, the paint is relocated to the canvas all at oncewell, really, in two goes, but each time all at once. Its logical to compare this to a monotype but for me, it resonates even more with photography. One feels the momentness of the paintings coming into being, which somehow subsumes the preceding temporal sequence. If you compare one of Deutschs works painted directly with oil on canvas to one of the transfer paintings in acrylic, even with similar imagery, youll see the oil painting as slower in tempo, and more spatialthe acrylic transfer painting, no matter how complex it may be, comes across as faster, more immediate, and more about the plane than about depth. The transfer paintings ask you to be faster on your feet in responding to them. You have to concentrate differently on your looking.
I dont know of anything else in contemporary art quite like Deutschs recent paintings. That includes his own earlier work. I first noticed it as long ago as the mid-1980s, when he was making very elongated, very painterly panoramic landscape paintingsthis was already some fifteen years into an exhibition history that had begun when Deutsch was still in his twentiesbut really got knocked sideways in the early 1990s by the rotunda paintings showing masses of framed portraits hanging in a domed space. His art always seemed to ask questions about how and why one sees what one sees, taking advantage of and highlighting the viewers perceptual processes, as Alfred Sturtevant wrote back in 1986, in ways that more traditional painting includes but deemphasizes; it envisages the peculiarity of the everyday. But while I tried to follow Deutschs work over the yearsas it has evolved through more twists and turns than do most artists oeuvresI only got to know him a little better fairly recently, and that through the urging of his fellow artist Ugo Rondinone, a fervent admirer who has described Deutschs paintings as negotiations with the physical dimensions and sensorial capacities of the human figure; with the desire to see and to find meaning in chaotic conditions that tell a dual story about the fragility of painting and the fragility of human existence. As it happens it was also Rondinone who introduced Deutsch to Eva Presenhuber, who then suggested that Adam Lindemann of Venus Over Manhattan sees it too. That seems appropriate. Artists understand artists first and then the rest of us follow after.
David Deutsch was born in 1943 in Los Angeles, CA, and has lived and worked in New York, NY, since 1970. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Slow and Fast, Deutsch + Kwartler at PRACTISE, Oak Park, IL, (2018); Kerry Schuss, New York, NY (2016); and Neighbors and Strangers at Feature Inc., New York, NY, (2013). His work is included in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ; UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.