San Francisco

Drew Beattie & Daniel Davidson

Gallery Paule Anglim

By collaborating on 100 small drawings over a one-and-a-half year period, Drew Beattie and Daniel Davidson opened up an odd, quasi-memorial space between them. In that space, over the course of their collaborative enterprise, a kind of notational, childhood presence emerged: a lone, male character who represents an eerie amalgamation of both artists’ identities. More a psychic presence or an emotional tone than a drawn figure per se, this character dons various guises. In terms of style, it fluctuates between a Rorschach blot, a kind of adolescent cartoonlike scrawl, and an almost medieval grotesqueness that recalls Pieter Bruegel’s drunk and tormented peasants. As for its figural incarnation, it most often finds expression in the recurring image of a hanged man and in a mirroring of images and words—for example, the word “no,” when folded over, doubles into “noon.”

As an image, the hanged man is a metaphor for the suspension of ego identity necessary to collaboration. As an image-making procedure, the doubling of words and images is a metaphor for the way we see ourselves reflected in another’s eyes, thereby achieving greater degrees of self-awareness. Together, these metaphors drive and stand for the collaborative process. They also suggest a psychoanalytic undercurrent in which monsters unfold out of Rorschach symmetry, and this is how the drawings—as a kind of psychic body—become memorial. They represent intuitive patterns of remembering: of the emergence and submergence, the appearance and disappearance, of the figures of memory—be they big black bugs’ hanged men, grotesque faces, or butterflies drowned in expanding blots of ink.

Such remembering can only happen when one steps out of oneself and into the tenuous space of ego suspension. It’s like walking a plank. For some, these drawings may seem evasive, as though the artists are hiding behind an adolescent smoke screen of games (such as Hangman) or doodles. They are, in fact, revealing, especially to the artists themselves. During the collaborative process they learned they had both been overweight as children, which, perhaps, accounts for all the references to dead weight and weight scales that tug at these drawings. This is not to suggest that Beattie and Davidson are doing therapy, but, rather, that childhood is the memorial source, like an inkwell, from which they draw meaning as artists, and that the process of collaboration may have enhanced the sense of mutual vulnerability necessary for each to take their respective leaps into the space between them, knowing that there may be a noose at plank’s end.

Jeff Kelley