new-york

Ian Davis

Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

It’s possible to describe Ian Davis’s paintings in just a few words: tidy, faux-naive compositions populated by near-identical men who, in enacting futile rituals in unison, become elements of notation more than agents of narrative. Or so it would seem to judge by the twelve paintings and one collage on view in Davis’s first New York solo show. Here, the primary impulse was the methodical (or is it empty?) act of painting itself, the artist harnessing rudiments of modernist abstraction to figurative ends. Thus the grid is recast as a brick facade in Ceremony, 2007, while the monochrome turns into a gradated battlefield in Strategy, 2006. In this engagement with repetition—of style, pictorial units, and, importantly, themes of warfare, industry, and mass gatherings—Davis makes clear that the failures of representation can be remarkably akin to those of abstraction, in that both now offer

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