How We Got Here
Oh What a Lovely Sound
more we look at Rachel Davis’ forms, the more ambiguous they become.
As a printmaking student in Madison, Wisc., she looked down at leaves
and rocks as she walked through campus. Her husband, a botanist,
showed her plants under a microscope. Davis knows landforms too, which
she’s seen from above. She mixes microscopic, macroscopic and life
scales in her work, experimenting freely and getting excellent
results. Davis curated "Sextet," a late autumn exhibition at ZG
Gallery, showing her work and that of five other artists. She hung six
acrylic paintings on wood panels that range from about one to two feet
high, width proportionate. Working in flat, subdued colors, she covers
the panel completely, sands down the paint, and may scratch into the
surface. She puts on two or three more layers of paint, sanding again
and scratching into the finished image. This procedure delivers a flat
surface with visible underpainting.
Abstract, clearly organic forms, emerge from the edges of Davis’
paintings but rarely occupy the center. She crops most paintings so we
see only an incomplete form and makes little attempt at creating
depth. A monochromatic background unites her painting.
with its rich red background, is particularly rewarding. A form at
lower left that the artist has sketched in pale blue line and rough
dots hovers between organism and architecture. Above, at right, is a
lively, complex shape that suggests a leaf dangling from a twig. The
artist paints this in a lighter blue, bright yellow, and brown. Davis’
color choice and control could hardly be better. This painting is much
less simple -- and simply done -- than it looks.
We Got Here,
with its floating chloroplast-like forms and three-dimensional
microstructures, evokes the botany lab. But we also see a map of
Chicago with dark blue Lake Michigan at right. The juxtaposition is
droll and we wonder if the artist is saying that botany brought her to
What a Lovely Sound
is amiably indecent. A dynamic bladder-like -- or algae-like -- shape
in browns and reds fills the leftward two-thirds of this painting.
This form seems ready to kiss or otherwise impinge upon a placid apple
green and yellow sphere that emerges from the right, tilted upward and
with its "lips" at the ready. Is this a botanical interlude? Only the
"Sextet: Six Artists," curated by Rachel Davis, on view till Jan. 21,
2006, at Zg Gallery, 300 W. Superior Street, Chicago, Ill. 60654