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Ivor Davies, Disintegrating, ca. 1956, oil, eggshell, and metal on board, 36 × 48".

“Silent Explosion: Ivor Davies and Destruction in Art”

National Museum Cardiff

Ivor Davies, Disintegrating, ca. 1956, oil, eggshell, and metal on board, 36 × 48".

“THIS IS NOT A RETROSPECTIVE,” warned Ivor Davies as I walked into the octogenarian’s mega-exhibition, up through March 20, at the National Museum Cardiff. An unsuspecting visitor to the show—dedicated to one of the Welsh art scene’s leading lights and crammed with paintings, sculptures, and archival materials—might be forgiven for wondering, “Why not?” Certainly, “Silent Explosion,” curated by the museum’s Nicholas Thornton and by scholar Judit Bodor, has all the makings of a good, long, reflective survey. The exhibition, described by the museum as “the first to consider the broad range of Davies’s artistic practice,” presents the artist’s career from the 1940s to now, tracking his journey from South Wales to Switzerland and Scotland and back to Penarth (Wales’s “Garden by the Sea”), where Davies now lives in his ancestral home.

Yet as I traveled around the exhibition,

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