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David Lynch has marked us all with his cinematic dreaming, with the strange, beautiful, terrifying and darkly comic musings of his film experiments. It is no surprise than, that his visual art should do the same — marking us, hitting us somewhere odd and visceral and deep.
Amid the gleaming white-walled interior of the new Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery at 1201 South La Brea Ave. in Los Angeles, a wide selection of Lynch’s multimedia archive line the walls. There are massive oil paintings, whimsical pencil drawings, bleeding watercolors and haunting black and white photographs, all united by what can only be called a “Lynchian” aesthetic — a kind of surreal Americana Noir, where humor and brutality coexist with the mundane.
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Pick-up trucks, cranes, and telephones disintegrate at the edges into primordial blackness, or ooze out from the canvas into three-dimensional weirdness. There are graceful gelatin prints of abandoned diners, forgotten corners of pavement and brick and faded letters advertising a long gone “Daily Special.” On a prominent back wall at the center of the exhibit, a towering oil painting depicts a loosely rendered WWII bomber, its nose pointed directly toward a spiderlike electrical tower. Above, the words “Airplane & Tower” loom like a deadpan threat.
Words are everywhere here — simple, commonplace phrases (“Cloudy Day,” “House and Garden”) or singular identifiers (“Buckaroo,” “TV,” “BBQ”). For curator Brett Littman, language is the central theme of the exhibit, the fitting title Naming serving as a cohesive link among Lynch’s multidisciplinary work. The only film in the show is a 1968 animation Lynch made while still a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. The Alphabet is a darkly disturbing stop-action meditation on letters, what Lynch once described as “a little nightmare about the fear connected with learning.“
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“I looked at 300 or 400 pieces,” explains Littman of the curation process, “works made early in his career to the present. And what seems to be a running theme is text, a fascination with language, with that first acquisition of language as a child, where you are identifying in the declarative, that initial process of naming.”
Littman links this process to something larger, a shared and ancient history of language as identity, a “naming” that exists across cultures and religions. And there is certainly something subconscious and primeval in Lynch’s pieces — a yearning to understand, to be lead from the darkness into comprehension. “To me,” explains Littman, “Lynch’s work depicts language as the light at the end of the tunnel.”
David Lynch’s Naming exhibit is on display until Jan. 4.
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