Critics’ Picks

David Lynch, Billy (and His Friends) Did Find Sally in the Tree, 2018, mixed-media painting, 66 x 66".

Los Angeles

David Lynch

Kayne Griffin Corcoran
1201 South La Brea Avenue
September 8–November 3, 2018

In 1906, the art critic, writer, and anarchist Félix Fénéon published a series of witty, epigrammatic three-line news stories in the Parisian newspaper Le Matin. These abbreviated reports, later published in English as Novels in Three Lines (2007), are striking in their capacity to convey vast, intricate plots with economy. The eleven mixed-media paintings in David Lynch’s exhibition achieve a similar effect in their chimerical yet aesthetically reduced nature. Lynch pares down the outlandish sensationalism of his best-known work in film and television, presenting lone characters and strange creatures in monochromatic landscapes. Still, the scenes are unmistakably Lynchian, tinged with a surrealist, macabre, and often hallucinatory tone.

Scrawled captions lend a storybook quality to this body of work and ground the narrative arcs. The painting I Was a Teenage Insect (all works cited, 2018) depicts a single yellow smudge wearing jeans and a striped shirt, flanked by the outline of a small house and a white picket fence, below the titular refrain. Billy (and His Friends) Did Find Sally in the Tree, whose title is likewise inscribed on the canvas, features a figure with spindly antennae reaching for a knobby tree where a red-faced creature in crumpled garb is perched, screaming, arms outstretched in shock. A woman in blue, presumably Sally, has hanged herself from a branch. The narrative is at once clear, paranoid, and enigmatic. Franz Kafka would undoubtedly approve of these domestic nightmares.