John Yau, 1998

“David Brody at Pierogi 2000”, Art On Paper, 1998

Best known for his fantastic, dense landscapes where contradictory images and allusive patterns read as geological shifts, Brody uses the pictorial devices of painting to emphasize its own materiality. In the six same-size gouaches on paper that made up this exhibition––collectively titled “Planet of the Archbuilders” (all 2005)––it is as if painting is returning to its earthbound sources. The paintings depict rocklike structures and strange interlocking habitations, a world striving not to sink back into inchoate matter.

In these works, Brody has restricted himself to a range of brownish-black tonalities, exploiting gouache’s transparency to develop interlocking layers of geologic structures that seem to have been worn and hewn by weather. While the sinuous forms evoke both the canyons of the American Southwest and Chinese “scholar rocks,” they are animated, and show the influence both of cartoons and of the artist’s extensive knowledge of nineteenth-century painters such as John Martin and J.M.W. Turner. The oddly-angled, close-up views suggest that we are seeing only a small portion of this fantastic world.

Spatial relationships are defined by contrasts of light and dark (here often the result of layers of washes) rather than by any other pictorial conventions. In one of the works, one sees faint rows of stacked arches in the lower-left background, and a darker, twisted, rock-like structure in the foreground. The near/far relationship between these forms is contradicted by what occurs at the right, where he landscape opens out into a flat expanse that can be read as a plain and/or the sea.

In making abstract marks, and then inflecting and adding to them, Brody creates a dialogue between body (the mark it makes) and mind (whatever layers and additions are made to what preceded it), the focus of which is the creation of uninhabited spaces where one’s imagination can find solace despite their apocalyptic references. In these gouaches, we see the ruins of the future approaching us.