Los Angeles

David Schirm

La Tortue Gallery

Clouds of colored baubles drift through the constructed paintings of David Schirm, tumbling through a dark field, moving as natural creatures do. His cut-and-pasted particles of wood, canvas, and plastic are loosely tethered to the surface by thin wires serving double duty as linear marks supporting his graphic imagery. In effect, Schirm is drawing with small, carefully integrated objects, relying upon their scale to set up at least two levels of pictorial activity. Thus a red painted spot, a shiny red plastic bead, and a scrap of red fabric appear to occupy flattened spaces, then leap from the surface, surprising us, at closer range.

The cheerful demeanor of this work might easily mask its mature fusion of the freely biomorphic and the beautifully man-made. Schirm calls his abstracted creatures “hybrids,” a term also used by Jean Arp; as such, they are lively vehicles which help one to objectify those inchoate but deeply felt biological impulses which we share with other living beings. They are, as André Breton expressed it, the “hybrid forms in which all human emotion is expressed.”

One is also seduced by the sheer physical inventiveness of Schirm’s recent work—the paintings filled with their stream of deftly integrated small objects, and the hand-sized works of sculpture, in vivid paint-box colors, with neo-Constructivist shapes that somehow maintain a jaunty playfulness. At Christmas last year Schirm created a train set in an abstracted landscape where fuzzy pink and black tank cars traveled through cloud-covered mountain peaks while planets hovered above, shedding glittery light upon the busy machinations of mankind.

The entire thrust of Schirm’s work recalls that gentle but important phase of early Dada in Zurich at the outbreak of World War I. One thinks particularly of Arp’s embracing of the biological beauties and absurdities of nature, flux, irrationality, and chance. Schirm’s work too gives evidence of a gentle questioning of the biological and the emotional, expressed through his delight in form. It provides a sunny spot from which to view the world for a time, and a welcome change.

Susan C. Larsen