New Narrative Now at M David & Co.

Curated by Michael David and Martin Dull

January 11 – January 27, 2019

Opening Reception Friday Jan 11, 6-9PM

Co-curator Martin Dull pictured with Todd Bienvenu’s painting (left) and Jeffrey Morabito, Kave T-shirt (right)

All images by Sharilyn Neidhardt

The work in “New Narrative Now,” curated by Michael David and Martin Dull at M David & Co. is united by a particularly muscular and aggressive kind of paint handling – unsurprising from a gallery well-known for cultivating abstract expressionist work. The paintings also share lyrical and mythical storytelling qualities. Recognizable figures flicker and bend across these canvases, wading through turgid waters, or wrestling with ropes of paint, or bathing in dreamy color. Animals and toys crowd some canvases, women stretch tortured forms across others.  Personal mythologies illuminate and infuse each canvas, casting a mysterious spell for the viewer.

I was lucky to have one of the curators, Martin Dull, take me through each piece. Each work tells a unique story and I share some of Mr Dull’s words with you here. We didn’t discuss every work in the show – the paintings in this show are all quirky and interesting and wonderful. I would definitely recommend this show to lovers of painting. Though it’s a narrative show there is plenty of technical and textural delight on offer here. 

AS: What was the process of curating this show like for you?

MD: When I’m curating, I love collaborating. There’s something about being able to bounce your ideas off somebody else. Instead of a single vision, it’s a plural vision and more can happen. Michael David has got this incredible eye – a whole dance starts to happen. I think of curating as an extension of my painting process. I’m not making the decisions in the pieces, but I’m making the decision on how the pieces and the whole room interact with each other, making a whole other layer to the experience. It’s collaborative on so many different levels.

AS: What was the impetus behind this show in particular, in a gallery more well-known for abstract expressionism?

MD: The gallery has shown a lot of abstract expressionist work, but Michael and the gallery have also championed people like Todd [Bienvenu]. Right now, there seems to be a grassroots interest in figuration that’s exploding – not the academic idea of figuration but about putting the narrative back into the painting, the figure back into the painting, adding an extra layer to the work. It creates a narrative and material personal expression.

Bushwick has a lot of exciting figurative work happening right now. It’s a great time to call attention to how painters are using the idea of figuration in radical ways. All these painters relate to each other, but at the same time there’s a vast difference between Mary DeVicentis’ work and Mark Milroy’s work or Natasha Wright’s work. They may be based in the same mindspace, but the way that it manifests is sweeping, broad, and highly personal. And this space has always championed the personal vision, the intense artist, that passion that goes deep.

AS: Can you talk about some of the personal connections you have to artists in the show?

MD: I worked at New York Studio School, and two of my classmates Carlo D’Anselmi and Rachel Rickert have work in the show. Jeffrey Morabito and Natasha Wright were students at the school. Todd Bienvenu also studied there. There’s a big New York Studio School contingent in this show, which makes sense. The School has nurtured figurative painting through a dark time where it was considered something that ‘wasn’t done’.

People are now taking the figurative ideas in different directions. It’s not just figuration, it’s also a story, a narrative that’s present in all of the work. There’s something a little subversive about the personal narrative. The paintings can be uncomfortable at times because they are so vulnerable. There’s something in each painting that’s very revealing about each artist.

Natasha Wright, Power Woman X

AS: Let’s talk about this Mark Milroy!

MD: Mark grew up in rural Canada. When he was a kid, he and his friends would take out their canoe on this swamp. They would wear masks and they would pour gasoline on the surface of the water and they would light it on fire. They would play with it and other boats would row through the blaze. It represents a personal mythology for him. And I just love the way he interjects these symbols, there’s a hand coming out of the water here, it all goes back to one moment in a super intense childhood.

Mark Milroy, Pinafore #2
Grace Roselli, 1984

AS: I can’t stop looking at this [Grace Roselli] painting. The buildup of paint is just incredible, sculptural.

MD: Grace Roselli! She did this in the 1980s. Grace has worked in many different mediums, but this piece is a real powerhouse.

AS: How about this Clintel Steed?

MD: He’s focusing on a series about Virtual Reality by painting VR helmets. The interaction of humans and technologies has long been a focus for his work. And with Clintel, you also get this incredible paint handling. Just the brilliance of hint of green in an otherwise black and white painting creates a full color spectrum. That’s a gift!

Clintel Steed, Study for VR, Series #1

AS: Let’s talk about the colors in this Carlo D’Anselmi painting – that guy can really paint. I think the way he uses colors is masterful. His indication of transparency and depth with opaquely painted rough strokes just amazes me.

MD: Yeah! Me and Carlo go way back, we shared a studio in Jersey CIty at one point. He has this capacity to create these displaced myths that are just his own. The images seem super specific and readable, but at the same time, the more I look the more I realise I don’t know quite what I’m looking at. He’s brilliantly created this watery universe out of just these linear strokes of color and paint obscuring a male and a female body…then he’s got this cloud up here that’s painted like Marsden Hartley, it’s just a brick of a cloud. It’s the polar opposite of the water but they’re painted almost the same way. He makes you question his paintings.

Carlo D’Anselmi, Hard To Dam Back

AS: And what about this painting by Rachel Rickert?

MD:This is one of Rachel [Rickert]’s most recent paintings, it wasn’t what we initially were going to put in the show, she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. But she’d brought it with her and it really worked. It’s just beautifully painted, it’s a little out of the box for her, but it works so well in the context of the show. What else could hang next to this [Staver Klitgaard ]? Michael really showed me something about this painting, look at this little fireworks explosion of flowers underneath.

Rachel Rickert, Measuring Up
Staver Klitgaard, Lady or the Tiger

AS: This Ashley Cooper seems to be hanging in a special place in the gallery. I feel like there’s always a really unique painting in this spot by the desk.

MD: I was determined to have this painting in this show. These little scribbled passages in the hair! Who could pull this off? It’s so crazy, it’s a green and yellow painting with Yoda and The Hulk! It really transcends the silliness of the narrative and becomes a Painting. Minty greenish blue teeth? A brilliant insane decision!

Ashley Cooper, Gary And His Guys

AS: Hard to go wrong with Yoda AND The Hulk.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

New Narrative Now
at M. David & Co., 56 Bogart Street

Todd Bienvenu, Farrell Brickhouse, Ashley Cooper, Carlo D’Anselmi Mary DeVincentis Herzog, Staver Klitgaard , Mark Milroy, Jeffrey Morabito, Rachel Rickert, Grace Roselli, Clintel Steed, Natasha Wright, 

In the Project Room One – Person Exhibition by Ewelina Bocheńska,Icaros par Alma

Sharilyn Neidhardt is a Brooklyn-based visual artist. She is a co-founder of the artists’ community trans-cen-der and is an assistant curator at Friday Studio Gallery. She’s an avid cyclist, loves midnight movies, and speaks only a little German. Her first solo show ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ opened Sept 7 at Art During the Occupation in Brooklyn. More at