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by Victor M. Cassidy    Jan. 11, 2006                  


Rachel Davis: Botanical Interludes

Rachel Davis


Rachel Davis
How We Got Here

Rachel Davis
Oh What a Lovely Sound

The 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.

Consider 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.

How 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 Chicago.

Oh 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 artist knows.

"Sextet: Six Artists," curated by Rachel Davis, on view till Jan. 21, 2006, at Zg Gallery, 300 W. Superior Street, Chicago, Ill. 60654

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