Los Angeles

David Grant


For a few years now, David Grant has been stretching fabrics and skins over armatures and padding, toying with the interface of surface and what lies beneath, but never before have his works so encouraged viewers to undress them with their eyes. The new wall-mounted relief sculptures recently on view consist of various materials stretched over steel-and-fiberglass frames on which Grant has constructed hidden assemblages of found objects. The coverings are pulled tight around the edges and cinched in at key points with thread and buttons, resulting in the kind of oscillation between specificity and vagueness, frankness and falsification, accentuation and de-emphasis that occurs when clothing covers anatomy.

And so the hide-and-seek begins, along with the fashion commentary. Resembling a stylishly cratered planet, Sinus Nubium (all works 2000) offers green-gold velvet that has been cut with a grid pattern stretched over what appear to be scalloped bowls or tart pans. Also making good use of kitchen supplies is Marquesas Fracture Zone, in which Bundt-cake pans push out from beneath taut black leather, again resembling craters (or sphincters), while in another celestial creation, Moonless Mountains, fabric-covered buttons top what look like the bottoms of aluminum cans (but are likely plumbing or electrical fittings) to produce peaks that punctuate a flowing, midnight blue surface. Islands of Langerhans wraps bronze velvet over hubcaps that mark the four corners of a square frame, Mare Fecunditatis merges fluid with geometric in a lilac lycra sheathing of the polystyrene packing blocks you might find in the box containing your next new appliance, and Bikini Atoll pulls a pink-and-black striped fabric worthy of a daring bathing suit over a trio of fan blades, making for a landscape of pinwheelish mountains. Finally, Mariana Trench ratchets a layer of rawhide over unidentifiable objects that take on the appearance of bones pressing out against skin.

Luscious and provocative, Gram’s works synthesize the Pop, funk, finishfetish, and post-Surrealist impulses that underlie much seminal California art of the last fifty years and that weave through much of the work coming out of Los Angeles today. Moreover, at a moment when criticism too frequently degenerates into false polemics around the opposition between easy-on-the-eyes and intellectually engaging, Grant delivers sculptures that are both flat-out gorgeous and in their place and time quite astute. They ask more of us than just ogling or speculating about what’s under the covers. These works are about bodies, cover-ups, hints, misrepresentations and revelations, about padded shoulders, padded bras, and padded crotches, about the way new upholstery can transform a chair and a new outfit can change a person. In that respect, despite the fact that some of Grant’s synthetics will likely outlast their steel frames, his work concerns a magic, fleeting moment: when you have just put on that new suit or dress, before it became threadbare, before it shrank, before it went out of style, and before you lost the nerve necessary to pull it off. In their commentary on the things we want to be and the ways we try to get there, these works say a lot.

Christopher Miles