Natural Curiosities: Works by David Lefkowitz
Through Feb. 13
Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University
3 p.m. artist lecture, 4-6 p.m. reception, Feb. 13
Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
For information, call 322-2471
Thread your way through the construction that surrounds Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Student Center, and you’ll have fresh context for the works by Nashville native David Lefkowitz now on view in the center’s art gallery. Outside the center, man is altering his environment by erecting new structures; inside the center, Lefkowitz is commenting on the complex relationship between man and nature. While raw construction materials are transformed into buildings outside, Lefkowitz turns electric cords, insulation, and sheetrock into art inside.
But while Lefkowitz’s paintings and mixed-media constructions engage the viewer in a dialogue that questions man’s relationship with nature, they are much more than simple pro-environmental statements. His elegant oil paintings of flowers and foliage intertwined with electric wires and cables also reference 17th-century Dutch still-life masterpieces. His view of an idyllic mountain scene, framed in sheetrock, lumber, and fiberglass insulation, alludes to 19th-century American landscape painting and also to the Renaissance idea of a painting as a window on the world. It’s almost as if Dutch master Jan Vermeer and American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt wandered into Home Depot and were seduced rather than repulsed by the man-made technology and materials there.
This tongue-in-cheek humor and ambivalence plays a part in all of the works in the show. If each work begs a question, it also refuses to offer a pat answer. While some viewers might see the artist’s paintings of flowers and wires as a statement about man strangling his natural world, the sheer beauty of Lefkowitz’s painting stylethe luminescent lighting, the classic compositionsmakes the same viewer wonder just which side the artist is really on. If a delicate flower entangled with a vine-like electric cord looks this lovely, can it really be that dangerous? Or is the beautiful presentation merely a way of luring us into thinking technology isn’t such a threat to nature after all?
Similarly, the artist creates an exquisite homage to traditional landscape painting in ”Nature World,“ only to toy with our appreciation by elaborately framing the work in sheetrock, studs, and pink fiberglass insulation. Look closely at the painting itself, and you’ll see all is not so natural after all: Tucked away amongst the pastoral greenery is what looks like some kind of pipe designed to drip industrial waste into this paradise.
Besides referencing historic art styles and environmental questions, the work also asks the viewer to consider nature as a partneralbeit an uneasy onewith man-made culture: We long to live in the midst of natural beauty, but only on our own comfortable terms, so we construct climate-controlled buildings with picture windows that let the outside inbut only so far. Then again, without a culture that celebrates nature, even as we invade and alter it, would what we call nature exist at all?
Other works in the show also explore man’s ambivalent relationship with his environment. In a series called ”Natural Curiosity,“ Lefkowitz comments on man’s desire to mimic natureperhaps as an alternative to preserving it. In these wall sculptures, the artist uses oil paint on plywood to recreate in trompe l’oeil fashion cross-sections of trees, right down to the concentric circles on the smooth surfaces and the irregular bark-like edges. Another series, titled ”Innovation,“ takes a similar approach, but here the artist uses oil paint on OSB panel. In these works, Lefkowitz doesn’t disguise the particleboard look of the surface, allowing it to play against the faux bark effect he expertly creates around the edges.
The work in the show that perhaps best sums up Lefkowitz’s views on man and nature, however, is a deceptively simple-looking painting of a tree. Standing alone in a green field, the tree is leafy and green and appears in lush good health. The configuration of its branches, though, suggests that it may have once been pruned into a U-shape to allow the easy passage of power wires or some other man-made apparatus through its foliage. Though no wires are present now, the tree stands ready to receive man’s interference again. The painting is titled, appropriately enough, ”Accommodation.“ In a sense, all the works in the show are about accommodation: Man makes adjustments for and to nature, while nature adjusts to accommodate man’s presence. Lefkowitz leaves it to the viewer to decide who is the real winneror loserin the process.
It hardly seems news that the classic White Christmas is a corny show with contrivances,…
The shooting location for hard bodies gym was formerly the Paramus, NJ location of Tower…
This is like a flashback to the '80s, when Ted Turner was colorizing CASABLANCA and…
That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!