Monday, April 19, 2010

4:36 p.m.

Auditorium by Ian Davis

Thoughts: Faith in the Future

A warning: if your transatlantic flight has been cancelled three times due to volcanic activity, Ian Davis' Faith in the Future might hit a little too close to home. Unscrupulous and sometimes bizarre tragedies or events are painted into looming, threatening environments. However, the depth, detail and humor that each work imbues might also conjure thoughts of New Yorker cartoons, films by Terry Gilliam, or quite simply, the hilarity of life.

I mean this as a compliment — viewing Davis' work is much like unraveling the world financial crisis. From far away, the newspaper headlines didn't look so bad, but as we read more stories, the more overwhelming it became. In this exhibit, the magnitude of Davis' works cannot possibly be appreciated from three-feet away. You must start up close (nose-to-the-canvas-give-your-eyes-a-chance-to-refocus close) for the Twilight Zone-esque depictions to materialize.

The unexplained circumstances depicted by Davis are so meticulously calculated, that every intricate, minute detail adds to the surreality of the scene. Although Davis has gone to pains to draw hundreds of faces on men whose heads are smaller than thimbles, they are all so scarily similar that features transform figures into a faceless void.

Davis utilizes architecture to implant his faced-but-faceless masses in colossal halls, auditoriums or pseudo-natural disasters as predicted from the perspective of scientists circa 1950. The gravity of the situation is felt at an intimate level and also at a grand scale. The colors he chooses — black, pinks, reds and blues — stay with you. All you can really remember about For No One is that pink, pink sky. You cannot remember the faces you got up close to see, but there are blobs of black suits following you to your car.

But Davis isn't making a political statement. It's not a scare tactic. His work is really quite humorous and innocently engaging. It's his perception of our future, mixed with a good dose of the now-funny, Cold War-era imagery.

Faith in the Future, which ends mid-June, is part of Kemper at the Crossroads and is Davis' first museum exhibition.

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