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  • Michael Abatemarco

David Solomon at David Richard Contemporary

I come to the paintings of David Solomon as I would to the imagery in a tarot deck, with a mingled sense of wonder and curiosity. From his work, I get the feeling I am being shown something from behind the veil of the ordinary day-to-day world, something that hints at the portentous. Solomon paints seedlike and cellular shapes that mingle and converge with other biomorphic forms on aluminum panels. Something about aluminum as a painting surface is suited to the kind of abstract painting Solomon does: energetic, hastily applied brushwork that is thick in some places and as thin as a wash in others. In some pieces a light shines through, reflected by the aluminum underneath.

Solomon's body of work on view at David Richard Contemporary is a selection of recent paintings that augments the gallery's main exhibit, Bay Area Abstraction: 1945-1965. Bay Area Abstraction features work by Jack Jefferson, Frank Lobdell, and Charles Strong. Solomon's work is in a small interior gallery adjacent to the main exhibit space. This positioning respectably keeps Solomon's new work at arm's length from the historic period represented by the paintings in the larger show but, because his work shares obvious affinities with those paintings, it belongs there. Solomon once worked as an assistant to Lobdell, and some of his work appears to have been influenced by the older artist.

I have not figured out exactly what it is that draws me to Solomon's work. It has to do, I think, with the mechanisms at play between the biomorphic forms. Solomon's work manages to be figurative without being overtly representational. In Midnight Dreaming or Anti Dream, for instance, a few dark lines suggest a vaguely human shape around which undefined images swirl. In that painting, and in others, there is the sense of bodies moving through space, of something happening. A triangular shape emerges in the lower right corner of In Midnight Dreaming. I get the sense that it is moving into my field of view, not out of it. Similar imagery appears in a small painting called Path to Road Cloud. The triangle is a recurring motif, along with the "seed pods," in Solomon's work.

Solomon captures a feeling of the movement of life on two levels: one molecular and the other macrocosmic. The painting Knowledge of Good & Evil is a good example: a cell-like shape with an image of an embryonic figure (just a thick drip of paint) contained in a nucleus that looks like a dark field of stars. The image is also vaguely apple shaped. Notice how the paint in Solomon's work is rendered — simple and uncomplicated. He makes it look effortless.

After a string of critically well-received and dynamic exhibitions, I am convinced that David Richard Contemporary is among the most important contemporary galleries in Santa Fe. Nothing there ever seems haphazard. One senses, though no wall text is needed to make it clear, that careful research goes into each of the gallery's exhibits. If you have not yet seen the series of historic exhibitions it has been offering, then you owe yourself a visit. Somehow, the owners manage to keep older work fresh and newer work connected to the legacy of the past without feeling derivative.

-- Michael Abatemarco - New Mexican's Pasatiempo, November 25, 2011

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