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David Olivant: Because I Know I Shall Not Know
July 10-Aug. 16, 2020
Sponsored by Tandem Properties

For about five years prior to making the works displayed in this exhibit I produced about eighty assemblages. In these I had  wrestled a sense of meaning and even an obscure beauty from a reluctant panoply of post-consumer detritus and severed ceramic limbs, heads and diverse other fragments salvaged from earlier once cherished but now fallen-from-favor artworks by fusing various ill-suited selections into what I named “heteroglyphs”. By 2018 the notion of reprocessing and virtually compacting these, in part animated by concerns about storage, had been lurking in the background of my awareness for a couple of years.

After chasing up a few blind alleys, this virtual flattening was effected through very high res, large-scale photographs, conjured into existence through the precision talents of Jennifer Van, my tireless studio assistant. I then agitated, teased, cajoled and bullied the print outs with the sizeable battery of formal devices, stylistic stratagems and surplus imagery any mid-career artist, who might have survived post-modernism is apt to have accumulated. The resulting works on paper I named “retroglyphs” in the hope of pointing to their layered history.

The process of recycling and almost random combining and recombining of disparate elements makes a merit of decades-long practice in relative obscurity, standard for many serious mid-career artists today. Beyond the untested hypothesis that work “improves” with age, lies the more weighty truth that there is just more of it, and the personal history it might reference, to grapple with. More than this dubious compensation is the growing understanding that the significance of such art, its impact on viewers, comes from generating unpredictable surface and depth juxtapositions at different orders of magnitude and then juxtapositions of those juxtapositions so that doubt and unexpectedness become ontological, and in a manner that tends to reconfigure patterns of emotional response.

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