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.
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 όβελιοκολύχνιον a spit used (by soldiers) as a lamp-holder < όβελίοκος OBELISK n. + λυχνίον 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).
Yes, this is becoming my own Tower of Babel, but, as promised, I will be showing an impression of the second state (about two thirds!) of my ongoing project, Obeliscolychny, with the Bay Printmakers during the first weekend of San Francisco Open Studios at Ft. Mason (see details above). Also featured will be Tempestuous Muse, first place winner in last year’s Open Studios exhibit. And, in a further example of shameless self-promotion, don’t miss the blurbette on me in the 2012 Open Studios guide (heavily edited to protect the public). In addition to the usual display of the perennial favorites in glorious black and white, at least some of the texts which caused my current project to come into being will be available for examination, and for those who must insist I will, of course, be on hand to attempt some sort of rationalization as to what connection there could possibly be between these recondite excerpts and the images that supposedly resulted from their discovery. Looking forward to seeing you there.
“…Ho, ho, I see land! I can see harbor! I can see a great crowd on the pier. I can see fire on the obeliscolychny. “
In addition to Open Studios, here is a list of current and upcoming shows in which my work will be included.
2012 Harnett Biennial of American Prints; 10/23 to12/9/2012, Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, Richmond, VA.
New Prints 2012/Autumn; International Print Center New York, New York
Culture: Man, Machine and Nature; 10/3 to 11/16/2012, Sisson Gallery, Dearborn, MI.
Inclusions, Art from within Bernal Heights; 9/22 to 10/21, Inclusions Gallery, San Francisco, CA.
Hopefully, if you have gotten this far, you have visited my updated website. Almost all of the work I have produced to date is now available for your perusal in glorious black and white, including my most recent etching, Abstracting the Quintessence. Don’t forget my dealers, Annex galleries, Jane Haslem Gallery and Warnock Fine Arts, whose sites can be found on my links page.
This summer I am becoming involved in a new book project, entitled Obeliscolychny. It will involve an etching 28 inches by 5 inches which will be utilized as a vertical accordion foldout in the book, as well as being editioned as a separate stand alone print.
“Obeliscolychny?” you may ask.
Ostensibly, “a lighthouse in the shape of an obelisk”. —Perhaps. An ancient Greek word favored by Rabelais and Alfred Jarry and used in their work. Twice. For both of them. Possibly originated with Aristotle, to describe a kind of spit to hang lamps on. Described in the Oxford English Dictionary as “rare, obsolete”. Hmm. Well, I’m running with the obelisk-light house thing, with letterpress text by the above-mentioned writers. And since it is to be a lighthouse in the shape of an obelisk, it must also be a windmill. You can see the kind of direction this thing could be going in…
I will post images of the sections I am working on as they develop (28 inches is a lot for me), so please check back occasionally if you are curious as to what could possibly be going on.