February 10, 2013

Art Review: Brilliant show a study in conceptual depth


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Installation view of Cynthia Davis’ mixed-media exhibition at Coleman Burke Gallery in Brunswick.

Courtesy photos

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“Writing, Page from Atlas With/In,” 2011, ink, gouache on paper.

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Coleman Burke Gallery, 14 Maine St., Fort Andross Mill, Brunswick

WHEN: Through March 16 HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday or by appointment

INFO: 691-3854, 837-7154; colemanburke.com

These are the negative space forms from which the meandering red line of "In this room" was cut. The most amazing of these pieces has a seam along the top edge so that it feels like a state shape -- the abstract straight line pairs with/against the practical natural forms.

One of my favorite pieces is "True to scale," in which Davis makes a giant field of fish scale-like forms from bits of gut (think chitterlings) whose curved edges she paints red (think pork). Around/over this is a large, torn field of Davis' fancy post-war wallpaper. The textures dance with each other: Two vertical system patterns -- one natural, one decorative. They are flora and fauna; sea (fish) and land (flowers); parchment and paper; and so on.

There is something appealingly honest about Davis' work. She presents the decorative as serious. Her layered but flatly vertical logic is dedicated to literal surface and process narrative -- rather than implied space and illusion of past painting.

Her conceptualism may have theoretical heft, but it's fundamentally commonsensical.

Davis is working on site to make more pieces for the vast gallery space -- not something I would expect of an artist whose approach is so laborious, private and process-intensive. But the first piece -- a hanging net of wire springs and puzzle pieces -- has taken beautiful shape.

The only Maine show I have seen with comparable conceptual depth, range and rigor was Gabriella d'Italia's 2011 "Pieced" at CMCA -- which (coincidentally?) also featured a fiber/sewing idiom. But while d'Italia's work sizzles with destabilizing brilliance, Davis' features a quietly appealing and approachable range. It's not all perfect by any means, but "Standing" is a great show, and it should not be missed.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

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“In this room,” 2011, silk and thread on paper.


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