Symptomania no. 1 (from Symptomania series), 2008
September 14, 2008 – February 8, 2009
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum debuts Symptomania, a suite of new work created expressly for the Museum by Karin Davie. The exhibition will include six new oil paintings, as well as two multi-media wall pieces made of cast resin and LEDs.
Karin Davie is best known for her exuberant, colorful, and evocative paintings that use undulating stripes and contorted gestures to obsessively animate the canvas and immerse the viewer. The new paintings continue her interest in “the gesture” as image, perception, the body, and metaphor. The fluid athletic movement of the artist’s body in applying brush to canvas and the slapstick quality of the action create a subsequent physical mimetic experience for the viewer, who stands before a static object that appears to be in motion.
The exhibition title, Symptomania, a combination of the words “symptom,” which traditionally indicates a departure from normal function indicating the presence of abnormality, and “mania,” a severe condition characterized by extremely elevated mood and energy, offers an apt description of Davie’s latest body of work. Her inventive title indicates that something is awry. In these Symptomania paintings, sinuous strokes of alternating murky and vibrant color snake across the canvases; they suggest an abstract body that seems to be simultaneously under attack or in a precarious state of balance. This revealing and concealing gesture extends to the cast wall pieces, where the works are linked to the paintings as a play on the notion of gesture—“strokes are replaced by pokes”—and the tension between the perception of inside and outside.
Curator Merrill Falkenberg explains, “Painters often refer to the moment when they know a painting is finished, when they have painted themselves out of it, so to speak; yet Davie manages to keep that moment still alive. There is a continual sense of change in these works, a sense that things are not static and that the viewer can continually be sucked into this rhythmic ebb and flow through multiple points of entry.”
Davie says of her recent work, “I’ve always been fascinated by painting’s potential to affect the perceptual space of the viewer: the idea of making a ‘moving painting,’ one that appeared alive and engulfed the viewer’s space forcing an interaction between object and viewer. It could be understood as a kind of fusion of the sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, inconsistencies that exist between how we see and how we interpret things in the world.”