I try to envisage EthicalDative as a safe space for saying that I like certain art. Tolerating tastes, especially other people’s, doesn’t come easily to our species. Persons with cultivated eye, especially, may compare it to defending people’s right to have opinions based on alternative facts. I myself, uncredentialed and untrained in art, experienced a fugitive thrill of specious superiority once when a man retired from 30 years of teaching art in the public schools told me his favorite artist was Norman Rockwell. De gustibus non est disputandum, I reminded myself. “There’s no arguing over tastes.”
I find much to like about Noah Davis’s painting.
Also, I always find something to be intrigued by, puzzle over, and admire in Roberta Smith’s art commentary.
Davis once said he preferred to think of himself as a painter rather than an artist, and the 27 canvases here… back him up. He was immersed in the medium, its materials and its history, and although his work was ostensibly traditional, it was also subtly pushing at the envelopes of subject matter, psychological expression and painting technique.
For me the provocative notion of identifying as painter rather than artist has appeal. It makes a backhanded kind of sense; whereas adverbs almost always fog my windshield. Words such as “ostensibly” and “subtly” sap vigor from the traits and acts they qualify.
[Davis]… refused to commit to a single figurative style or to use photographic images in a formulaic way. Nearly every canvas here is different, and most have an interpretive and painterly openness. Your eyes and mind enter them easily and roam through the different layers of brushwork and narrative suggestion. There’s an unexpected optimism to all this. The paintings also dwell in silence, slow us down and hypnotize.
The bit about not using photographic images “in a formulaic way” gives me something to grope my way towards understanding. Also, paintings that “dwell in silence.”
(Roberta Smith, “Noah Davis Is Gone; His Paintings Continue to Hypnotize,” NYTimes, 2-6-20)
(c) 2020 JMN