David Brody’s aim in his working process is to build an evolving structural system of constant revelation from small painterly gestures that lead the artist to larger truths. This is an inherently paradoxical idea, for if each stroke comes as a revelation, if each stroke is new, then every old stroke is contradicted and obviated. Ultimately, however, for Brody the process is not about contradiction or narrative or metaphor but simply and most profoundly about painting itself, and the achievement of a super-awareness somewhere between the blithe enlightenment of a yogi and the squirrelly, unstable reality of a drug-addled psychotic. It is about the state of mind of the artist, about achieving a heightened state of consciousness.
Brody feels his way through a painting in the manner of a composer working his way through a composition, as aware of its temporal dimension as he is of its spatiality. It is not improper to see these paintings as musical fugues of a sort. They are highly organized, rigorously delimited contrapuntal inventions which achieve their transcendent power through a dogged pattern of layering. Brody is in fact fascinated with the mathematical organization of the composing process, and his paintings fumble to recapitulate music’s rational layering of formal relationships. Structure, whether musical and pictorial, is infinite and fluid.
The temporal aspect of Brody’s process suggests another art form as well: animation. Here again the parallel is far from incidental. Brody has produced a number of animated films, and the meticulous serialized working process of the animator remains important to him. Brody has actually returned to animation several times in his recent paintings, both on his own and in collaboration with the experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison, setting up a motion picture camera in his studio to record his progress minute by minute, frame by frame. In 1989, Brody found a confluence for his interest in the short computer animated film “Beethoven Machinery,” in which linearly defined three dimensional forms danced and clicked in cascading networks to a movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet #16. He is currently developing a series of computer generated animations which will move his constructions still further into the realm of activated space and literal time.
Brody’s paintings may be musical fugues, but his working process, and his pursuit of a contemplative state of grace in the studio, provokes thoughts of the word’s psychiatric connotation as well. Within a fugue state one is capable of apparently fully conscious, self-aware behaviors which are completely lost to memory following recovery. Brody’s process is highly analytical, but to him the results are profound mysteries, and the paintings are discoveries; maps of another man’s investigations.
For all of this polymorphous curiosity and for all the intellectual hard edges in his thinking and working process, Brody does remain at root essentially and classically a painter. He does not come to painting as a refugee from other disciplines, but as a true devotee. It is in the visceral, sensual pleasure of the brush stroke that he takes his ultimate sanctuary. The generous mystery of painting itself, and the self-invention still possible only in the pre-technological arena of the paint’s studio, are the lures that bind him to his practice.