excerpt from the catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition Young + Brash + Abstract, curated by John Yau in 2002, Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Arts (pages 21-22)
David Brody paints and draws with very different results. Although done in very different mediums, the paintings and drawings do have one thing in common, a sense of place. As he states unapologetically in his “Artist’s Statement,” “I am looking for something concrete and habitable.” However, by this he doesn’t mean he is trying to depict a recognizable landscape or place. He is not in this sense a representational artist. Rather, he is an abstract artist who does not deny paint’s capacity to be representational. Brody arrives at this contradictory understanding of paint’s behavioral properties by placing marks, strokes, curlicues, and blobs next to each other, seeing what option each of these small painterly decisions makes possible.
Brody’s additive process can be said to be the opposite of Stephen Charles, who hones in. Brody, in effect, does the opposite. He builds up a porous, layered field of small gestural marks, though, like Charles, in a manner that is unplanned and open-ended. In this sense, Brody is an abstract artist who works improvisationally within certain limits. He eschews expressionism, for example, and his marks tend to be straightforward, often running along a diagonal or vertical axis. This combination enables Brody to develop a spatial composition that is essentially geometric.
Brody’s paintings maintain a palpable tension between an accumulation of abstract, non-descriptive marks of paint and what appears to be a structural conglomeration. The sense of place is underscored by the painting’s titles. Each is titled Region and numbered sequentially. Brody’s “regions” seem to be the result of a collision between nature and culture, the organic and the mandmade.
I m reminded of the visionary architect Bruno Taut’s belief that the crystal was the perfect model for architecture because it encompassed both geometry and nature. It is also worth remembering that Taut wrote science fiction in addition to theorizing abut architecture. Certainly, Brody’s paintings invite comparison to science-fiction landscapes and cityscapes, as well as to Chinese landscape painting, weird mountain formations, and organic structures in a state of change. And yet Brody’s real subject is finally paint itself.
With a Brody painting, the viewer never forgets that it is a surface covered with paint. It’s as if the image is struggling to emerge from the accumulations of paint, even as it is being subsumed by the tactile marks and strokes. The parallel strokes of paint crisscrossing each other convey a network of interconnected structures and modules. Brody underscores the modular aspect of his work by working on square formats which he can join together to make vertical or horizontal formats. For all their evocation of architecture, the paintings can also be understood in terms of music. It’s as if Brody works contrapuntally, with each mark or series of marks responding to what went before. The result isn’t a narrative, but an abstract structure.
In his drawings, Brody makes diagonal and vertical lines on the wall. The underlying grid is isometric. By using an isometric grid, Brody is able to articulate a dynamic spatiality made up of diagonal planes. As in his paintings, Brody delimits what he an both do and use in a drawing. In this sense, he is classical in his approach to painting and drawing. And yet his work is’t nostalgic; it doesn’t look back with longing. His structures may be inhabitable by the viewer’s eye, but that doesn’t mean they are completely comforting. In Brody’s paintings and drawings, utopian and dystopian impulses have become, as perhaps they already were, inseparable.