In the Year of the Covid, 2020, I am nevertheless very pleased that the de Young Museum of San Francisco will be purchasing my etching, MENDACIA RIDICULA (the Wheel of Ixion) for their collection, after having accepted my two entries for the de Young Open, an exhibition of Bay Area artists culled from over 11,000 entries. The Exhibition can be accessed online at https://deyoung.famsf.org/exhibitions/de-young-open and will be showing at the museum until the beginning of January. This etching has become very popular recently for some reason (!) and has been included in eight shows since the beginning of the year, as well as being included in the collection of Casa de las Americas in Cuba.
Concerning which, there are now only four complete
sets left of the New Four Disgracers, of which this etching is a part.
Likewise, there are only four impressions of Obeliscolychny still available.
Get them before the coup starts!
What, though the field be lost,
All is not lost; the unconquerable will,
And study of revenge, immortal hate,
And courage never to submit or yield:
And what else is not to be overcome?
That Glory never shall his wrath
Extort from me.
From Paradise Lost, Book I—Satan lying in a pool of burning sulfur after being cast out of heaven (losing, that is). It will be a rocky road…
When I created my etching based on Goltzius’ Phaethon in 2011, little did I realize that I would continue this theme over the years and appropriate, one by one, and for my own nefarious purposes, each of his four engravings from the series known as The Four Disgracers. In keeping with Goltzius, who used fallen figures from classical Greek myths to disparage the arrogance of Phillip II of Spain, who was trying to subjugate the Netherlands at the time, I have utilized his images (which were actually based on the original paintings of another artist, but certainly stand on their own merits) to reflect on some of our current curses of humanity.
So, the fourth work from Goltzius’ series representing the fall of Ixion has been completed. It is titled MENDACIA RIDICULA (the Wheel of Ixion), and is based on the most complex and detailed of his four engravings. The impetus for creating this final work really came from my discovery of the translation into English of the Latin text encircling the original image. Aside from tweaking the rather clumsy translation and adding one detail at the end, my text pretty much follows the original, word for word. Lamentably, the muse Clio has the unfortunate habit of repeating herself, but her ashcan is ready and waiting. And as regard to the demand for civility in public discourse by the current dominant political organization enabling insanity, I can only reply; “Mendacia Ridicula”.
As we all know, Ixion was redeemed and invited up to Olympus by Zeus after committing some rather unsavory crimes against his mortal brethren. In keeping with his character, once among the gods, he lusted after Zeus’s wife, Hera, and when Zeus realized this, he created a “dark (Stormy?) cloud” in the likeness of Hera, with whom Ixion proceeded to have intercourse. Needless to say, when he subsequently boasted about his supposed conquest, he was punished (tied to the spinning wheel of Ixion for eternity). However, the sexual encounter was unprotected, and depending on your preference of myth, the dark cloud (Nephele) either gave birth to the race of Centaurs, or to a deplorable individual who was responsible for fathering them. (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to how that was accomplished). In spite of Uncle Walt’s bucolic version, it’s doubtful that the ancient Greeks took this as a good thing.
MENDACIA RIDICULA (the Wheel of Ixion) is an etching, 6” x 6”, printed on Van Gelder Simili Japon paper in an edition of 30. In addition to offering it for purchase at the price of $400.00, I am making the set of four (The Four Destructors; The Four Deplorables?—we’ll see) available for $1425.00, which is a discount of 10 % from the full price of $1580.00.
This year I have received my second purchase award from the 31st McNeese Works on Paper Exhibition, the third Place Award from the Texas National 2018 Competition (1000 entries!), and my work “A Ticket to Ride…” was acquired by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. In August I will be showing work in “Stand Out Prints” at the Highpoint Center for Printmaking (900 entries!) and “Pressing Matters” at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. Stay tuned for info about Fall Open Studios and the Art for Aids Auction (Das Narrenschiff).
Here is a copy of the Washington Post Article by Mark Jenkins containing a review of my solo exhibit at the Washington Printmakers Gallery this last July. Stay tuned for more information on this year’s Open studio.
Here’s a review by Mark Jenkins
in the July 21st Washington Post:
David Avery’s “Tempestuous Muse,” on view at Washington Printmakers Gallery. (David Avery/Washington Printmakers Gallery)
“As a maker of hand-etched prints, David Avery is something of an antiquarian. He also inserts text – sometimes in Latin – into his exquisitely detailed work. So, of course, the San Francisco artist centered his display at Washington Printmakers Gallery on a print titled “Obeliscolychny.” It’s a word he allows is “obscure and rarely used,” in an essay accompanying the show, “Pursuing Invisible Reflections.”
The term refers to a lighthouse, which in Avery’s depiction is a spindly stack of many kinds of buildings, including monument, windmill and tumbledown shack. Here as in the other prints, the look and some of the content is closer to Albrecht Durer than any contemporary artist.
Yet the classic imagery is wittily updated. Avery interjects Renaissance-style intimations of mortality and damnation into everyday scenes: A skeleton rides a stick horse whose head is a equine skull, or a woman jogs with a stroller and a dog, accompanied by Death (riding a bicycle) and a demon. Such mash-ups would be only mildly amusing if the artist didn’t so successfully emulate centuries-old motifs and methods. Indeed, Avery is so adept that viewers in bygone eras might have surmised that he’d sold his soul to the devil.
Recently I was interviewed by Cy Musiker for the KQED Arts section on their web page as part of his review of a show at the Juan Fuentes Gallery titled “Creation & Resistance: Printmaking in Dark Times”. The piece in question, “Year of the Rooster” was not reproduced in the article (!), so here it is. The Latin on the scroll reads: “The World Wishes to be Deceived” (Thank you, James Branch Cabell), which is really what the piece is about, more than just Trump per se. You can see the article here: https://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2017/03/21/political-prints-pull-no-punches-at-juan-r-fuentes-gallery/ .
You can also visit the exhibit at the gallery at Accion Latina at 2958 24th Street (between Harrison and Alabama), Tues through Sat, 11 AM to 5PM through April 7th.
I hope that you will be able to make time in your Busy Schedules to visit me on the occasion of this year’s San Francisco Open Studios at which, in addition to exhibiting with four other accomplished printmakers (see below), I will be premiering The Coming of the Cocklicranes or His Kingdom Restored, a limited edition artist book featuring four etchings by the same name (now taking pre-publication orders!). Of course, as you have come to know and expect, a vast sampling of those pieces of paper smashed into polished copper plates which have been defaced with scratches and rudimentary chemistry will also be on display. Refreshments will be served.
WHERE–Gruenwald Press, 1663 Mission Street, San Francisco (entrance on Plum Street), identified with a prominent festively colored yellow sign reading “Gruenwald Press”. See map link for the secret entrance on “Plum Street“. http://mapq.st/1LAdN7Q
WHEN–October 31 to November 1, 11 AM to 6 PM
Reception (party!) October 30, 5:30 to 8:30 PM
WHO--Kathy Aoki, David Avery, Jonathan Barcan, Susan Belau, John Gruenwald
Please Note: there is regrettably a flight of stairs which has to be negotiated in order to reach the studio, HOWEVER, if needed, the freight elevator is easily accessible and can be utilized by calling 415-734-0376 and waiting patiently…
The harbingers of Autumn include the publication of five new prints; a series of four etchings entitled The Coming of the Cocklicranes (view here), as well as the just recently completed Runner (Mom, Death and Devil), based on the (you guessed it) famous Durer engraving of a similar name. In addition, there is the upcoming publication of a new artist book based on the aforementioned series of four etchings, which is anticipated to be ready for my 2015 Open Studio exhibition. This year I will be showing at the John Gruenwald Studio the weekend of Oct. 31st, along with four other accomplished and varied printmakers. More information will be forthcoming as the date approaches.
This year has seen a solo exhibit at the New Grounds Gallery in New Mexico, a three person show at the Sandra Lee Gallery in San Francisco, as well as prints included in an exhibit at the Venice Biennale, the Child’s Gallery in Boston, and several competitions with six awards and honorable mentions.
Ex Libris—In Absentia, a hard ground etching on copper was created in response to a call to printmakers from around the world to engage with and explore the implications of the destruction of Bagdad’s intellectual and bookselling district on Al Mutanabbi Street by a car bomb in 2007. The Al Mutanabbi Street Project seeks to draw attention not only to the attack in Bagdad, but through the idea of “Al Mutanabbi Street starts here” to raise awareness of the connections between Bagdad and the threat to culture (artistic and literary thought and exchange of ideas) in the face of the potential for intolerance and violence on our own street.
Woland famously remarked in Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” that “Manuscripts don’t burn”, meaning…what, exactly? Of course, they do burn, and so do people, as evidenced by this project, but perhaps it is the sense that ideas don’t burn that makes this such a powerful statement. In which case, where do they go, when so emphatically rejected by the arbitrary and malevolent forces of “the real world”? Is there some sort of continuum, a “space behind the curtain” so to speak that allows minds to connect and reconnect with the essence of burned manuscripts? These are some of the questions that came to mind in the process of exploration engendered by this project.
Too Close to the Sun, my most recent etching, is now available and has been selected from over 3000 prints to be shown along with work from 28 other artists at the IPCNY’s New Prints 2014/Winter exhibition from January 22nd to March 12th, 2014. It was also accepted into the 2014 Delta National Small Prints Exhibition from January 30th to February 28th, 2014.
Too Close to the Sun is based on the 16th century engraving of the fall of Icarus by Hendrick Goltzius from his series, The Four Disgracers that depicted the results of blind arrogance and ignorance in the face of the inexorable forces of the gods and nature. Safe, Clean, Cheap—Phaethon in the 21st Century, which can be seen on my website, was my previous attempt in this vein. I have adapted the work of Goltzius, which was created at the time to comment on the excesses of Phillip II in oppressing the Netherlands, to reflect on current curses of humanity that have been created for our own good by people who know what’s best.
A final note—due to the all-encompassing forces of supply and demand as exemplified by the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace, as of the end of January the price for the etching (not the book) Obeliscolychny will be $1000.00.
OBELISCOLYCHNY —an appellation that intoxicates the viewer with the potentials of unknown narratives, filled with mysterious possibilities leading to…what exactly? Obelisk-shaped lighthouses? Spit-lanterns wearing high-crown’d hats? A windmill inhabited by a cuckoo clock? Imagine these things and more, with the publication of the artist’s book, Obeliscolychny, featuring two etchings by David Avery and excerpts from Rabelais and Jarry connected with the abovementioned term.
Etymology: <Middle French obeliscolychnie (Rabelais, 1548-52) <ancient Greek ??????????????? a spit used (by soldiers) as a lamp-holder < ????????? OBELISK n. + ??????? lamp-stand (see LYCHNIDIATE adj.)
A lighthouse: a lamp-bearer.
The final state my etching Obeliscolychny is now completed and can be seen on my website. It will ultimately become the visual component of a limited edition artist’s book that will attempt to bring together the image with the texts from which the ideas that inspired it were derived.
“Obeliscolychny?” you may be tempted to ask.
And with good reason. Arguably one of the most obscure and rarely used terms to be found in literature (or anywhere else), but with, perhaps, undue influence relative to its obscurity, obeliscolychny was invented/appropriated by Francois Rabelais (@1483-1553) and used in books IV and V of his sprawling tales of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Possibly derived from Aristotle’s Politics, which used it to describe a kind of spit used by soldiers to hang lamps on as a metaphor for…well, something or other, it acquired the meaning somewhere along the way of a lighthouse in the form of an obelisk.
Centuries later, Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), poet, playwright, critic, puppeteer, and subverter of objective reality, discovered the word while reading Rabelais and became enamored with it, using it (pataphysically, of course) in several of his novels. That these works tend to be as convoluted and recondite as the origins of obeliscolychny itself is part of what provides grist for the mill of this project.
We are expecting the book to be completed soon, and are aiming for an opening event in mid July, so please stay tuned. Below are listed my most recent exhibitions.
Purchase Award, Ink, Press, Repeat 2013; 1/21 to 2/15/2013, Ben Shahn Center for the Visual Arts, William Patterson University, Wayne, NJ (Jacob Lewis—Pace Prints Chelsea).
Lindquist Purchase Award, 2013 Delta National Small Prints Exhibition; 1/17 to 2/20/2013, Bradbury Gallery, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, AR. (Anne Coffin-IPCNY).
Man, Machine and Nature; 1/17 to 3/1/2013, LA Print Space, Los Angeles, CA.
New Prints 2012; 2/1 to 3/9/2013, Visual arts Center, University of Texas at Austin, TX.
34th Bradley International Print and Drawing Exhibition; 3/9/13 to 4/20/13, Bradley University Galleries, Peoria, Il. (Stephen Goddard—Senior Curator, University of Kansas Kress Foundation).
24th National Drawing and Print Competitive Exhibition; 4/2 to 2/26/13, Gormley Gallery, Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, MD. (Amy Cavanaogh Royce).
26th Annual McNeese National Works on Paper Exhibition; 3/21 to 5/9/2013, Ambercrombie Gallery, Lake Charles, LA. (Claudia Schmuckli).
The New York Society of Etchers 3rd National Exhibition of Intaglio Prints; 5/20 to 6/7/2013, The National Arts Club, NY, NY. (Dr. Leonard Moss and Dr. Muriel Moss).