ICON: David Lynch

Posted on 20. Dec, 2009 by Administrator in Profiles

by Mark Cartier with contrubution from Amelia Guimarin
photos by Robert Wedemeyer

That is what David Lynch’s Twitter bio reads, and in fact, the unorthodox artist has always held onto this line – or similar iterations of it. This seemingly succinct string of words is a subtle insight into the complicated mind of David Lynch, and though the short if not intriguing bio is accurate, it seems an absurd description of what he and his work represent; complexity, detail-obsessed visions of the disgusting that can be hidden in things beautiful or simple. Mr. Lynch is a multi-faceted and enormously prolific creative powerhouse. In fact, the self-professed peddler of absurdity has a new show in town.

David Lynch at David Lynch's Art Exhibit Hosted by DeLeon Tequil

GRIFFIN, Santa Monica – collaborating with the James Corcoran Gallery- is hosting Mr. Lynch’s first solo show of paintings and photography in Los Angeles in over 10 years. The eloquent hall – host until December 12th – is big which makes it the ideal home for such a uniquely large task. I say large not only in reference to the depth and provocativeness of the work, but also because half a dozen of Mr. Lynch’s pieces are over six feet high and ten feet wide.
In trying to define these specific works, words like creepy, startling, funny, subtle, aggressive, cheeky, uncomfortable, and genius come to mind. Spending some time taking them in, I was overwhelmed with a sense of familiarity that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and since I have no dead girlfriends, angry mothers wielding electric knives, or disembodied vomiting faces in my recent past, I had to go back further – all the way to my childhood. A remarkable quirk with the artwork, the aspect of the show that seemed so familiar, was actually the child-like way in which Mr. Lynch labels what’s happening in the pictures. This is both ironic and subtle – disguised as obvious. It’s like the pictures that little kids in elementary school would draw. Think of a little stick figure of the artist giving another stick figure of someone else a gift, or a kick to the ass- where “me” with an arrow, “you” with another arrow, and “me kicking you” or “me giving you flowers” is neatly labeled for clarity. It is fascinating.
GRIFFIN, Santa Monica has done a remarkable job with this show. Genevieve Devitt Day, GRIFFIN Gallery Director, made an interesting point when asked about the common thread of the show. In reference to a gigantic painting in which a man with very long arms is reaching for a new shirt in a box while standing near the body of his dead girlfriend, she says “…there is a sense that these stories could be taking place now, in Anytown, USA. The mundane (‘Oh, I have a new shirt’) is combined with the ghastly (‘My girlfriend died last night’) and both coexist in the same frame – as in life. I think this is where the absurdity in his paintings lives. But for every evil in Lynch’s paintings there is also redemption.”

Oh...I Said a Bad Thing, 2009 Mixed media on cardboard 34 3/8 x 30 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches

I realize, or at least must acknowledge, that most people know of David Lynch as a filmmaker. “[He] has many fans of his films and this exhibition has introduced them to his artworks.” Devitt Day notes. “For 40 years, he has been painting and creating artwork simultaneously with making films and I think many people are surprised by the longevity of his visual arts career.”
Though I am a big fan of his film and television projects, it is this writers’ opinion, that such aspects of this Missoula, Mont., native’s repertoire are, in fact, the offspring of a greater inspiration – a greater calling….
Notably discussed at length in the many existing bios and interviews on his career, Mr. Lynch’s artistic beginnings seem more important than ever to delve into as one tries to understand and enjoy his current works. It was growing up in the aftermath of WWII, where a young David Lynch first put pencil to paper, drawing pictures of war machines. Guns. Browning Automatic liquid-cooled machine guns in particular. At the age of 14, he was introduced to painting while staying with his aunt and uncle in the Montana town of Hungry Horse (population 2,000). Shortly thereafter, upon moving to Virginia, Lynch was sparked by the idea of taking on painting as a profession, thanks to his best friend’s father. It was, in fact, this profession that brought Lynch into his better-known milieu of movie-making.

Oh...I Have a New Shirt, 2009 Mixed media on cardboard 82 1/4 x 118 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches

The story of his artistry evolving into cinema is a particularly interesting one. While standing in front of one of his paintings as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Lynch was overcome by the sensation that his painting was moving, the leaves of the garden he had been painting blowing in the breeze. The desire to see his work move, to hear it, and for others to experience the same was all it took. Lynch bought a 16-mm camera that was able to capture single frames. The end result was Six Men Getting Sick: A multimedia installation of a projected animation played on loop over a three dimensional screen sculptured with the busts of three human-like figures and a siren blaring in the background. This was followed by The Alphabet and The Grandmother; films which garnered him enough attention to be admitted into AFI, where began his long journey into making Eraserhead. The rest is history if only in bits, pieces, and interesting anecdotes.
Lynch is remarkably varied in his artistry, regularly departing from his painting and narrative filmmaking staples to indulge forays into sketching, multimedia presentations, documentaries, furniture design, rug making, and the like. His Web site hosts original content and has these strange, daily weather reports made by Mr. Lynch himself–or, as in this morning’s report, an absurd cartoon of an angry buffoon trying to cut a giant log with a handsaw while farting. He is inspiringly diverse. If someone told me David Lynch made shoes, I would probably believe them.
As it turns out, this is not far from having actually happened. In 2007, Mr. Lynch collaborated with Christian Louboutin, the renown master shoe designer (famous for his trademark sexy red soles) creating their fascinating offspring; Fetish—a photo essay of stunning naked women, slinking through dramatic shadows in impossibly high-heeled shoes. The work opened to such accolades that the collaboration continued for an entire series.

Crucifixion, 2008-9 Mixed media on canvas 82 1/4 x 130 1/4 x 8 3/4 inches

What else is Lynch up to? Well— he sells coffee on his Web site. He’s promoting his son’s endeavor, Interview Project, and not too long ago, he was making movies about making lamps. Well, actually just one lamp and just one movie – a short, from the DVD release of The Best of DavidLynch.com, and by short, I mean around 30 minutes. That’s right, half an hour of David Lynch mixing Fix All with paint and applying it to the structure of a floor lamp. Why did I watch it? Why would anyone watch it? Because it’s David Lynch, that’s why. There is something about his intonation that captures me and sends me whirling through his repertoire, trying to make sense of it all, trying to pin down that master narrative he must have hiding somewhere just beneath the surface. But, no, that has never happened.  If it did, I fear I would lose interest in the icon that is David Lynch. “Oh, so that was the secret all along…” My life would move on, this particular mysterious and interesting part of the world gone. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. And, so, this week, I head out to the West Side to see Lynch’s show to try to capture some sense of cohesion, but really, to just revel in the absurd.
So who is David Lynch? Is his one-line bio to be taken with a grin and an understanding of whom we’re dealing with? “Filmmaker. Born Missoula, MT. Eagle Scout.” This, like his art, is obviously a commentary on his unique view of the world, or “the neighborhood” as he calls it. From what I’ve seen at GRIFFIN and have rediscovered this week in his never-disappointing endeavors, past and present— he is wholly an artist. More to the point, he is indeed (or possibly it’s just his work) wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate. Depending on your definition of absurd.
For information on this current show please visit www.GriffinLA.com. Mr. Lynch has an exhibition opening later this month at the Max Ernst Museum in Bruhl, Germany. Next year, his exhibition The Air is on Fire, will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, and his work will be included in a group exhibition, Crime and Punishment, from Goya to Picasso at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France.

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