For the last several months we’ve listened to a crescendo of Presidential rhetoric, none of which has anything to do with art. Locally in San Diego, there’s a different kind of discourse, one that doesn’t have much to do with art either but everything to do with the slumping economy. As San Diego expands culturally, some galleries are struggling, resorting to “two buck Chuck” benefits for art. Local talent is also departing – the excellent painter Dave Miles is reportedly moving to Portland – while arts coverage here continues to dwindle against the need for more advertising dollars. It raises the question: if we have a band-aid approach to anemic times, why not let the art bleed itself dry including any notion of supporting it economically or otherwise? The answer just might be the artist David Adey. His current exhibition at Luis de Jesus Seminal Projects entitled, “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me” – from a Christian hymn by L. Casebolt – brings the focus and voice of an artist and others like him, back onto and looking at art for its ideas and content, its message.
A year has passed between Adey’s last exhibit, a gritty mix of work, and the more uniform presentation at Seminal. By using craft punches in an array of sizes and shapes bought at Michaels or on eBay, Adey literally "punches out" the celebrity figures featured in the pages of People magazine and on bebe fashion posters, but only the flesh tones. Clothes, hair, fingernails, eyes, and shoes are excluded. His technical prowess and formal abilities in composing the image have remained intact, and have been further refined, much to the works' advantage. They may, however, have lost some of the surprise factor one feels on first encountering them, as the method has not changed.
Tightly organized and pieced together like some forensics puzzle, pinned to stark white Styrofoam backgrounds, the fleshy specimens are less about their species and family and more about their iconic recognizability and appeal. A craft punch heart-shape of a woman’s lips can be transformed into a Rosette motif or a lugubrious figure. Antiquity meets Glamour or a Post-Modern Prometheus.
Given the parameters of his practice, dictated by one set of tools and one image, you might see his work as process art, more personal than public. After all, if you dissect an image, then resurrect it, do all the pieces fit? And who would know? Certainly, you can find some wry commentary on Pop society, see some humor in how he uses a baseball bat form to define a woman’s cleavage, and recognize a subtle Christian theme of life, death, and resurrection. But perhaps this is what Adey wants us to see: the value of an artist as inventor of all things imaginable, beautiful, and sublime. Something only he can do. We’re grateful.
David Adey's "I've got a river of life flowing out of me" is at the Luis de Jesus Seminal Projects in San Diego, CA.