Nashville artist Lindsy Davis’s work is always conceptually sharp and formally beautiful, and the artist’s prolific practice is also admirable for its engaging evolutionary leaps. Her recent exhibitions at The Red Arrow Gallery have slowly transformed from purely black-and-white paintings to 2D works highlighted by bold colors to—in the case of her latest show, Objective Nostalgia—medium-sized sculptural works that mostly eschew the muted, pastel color palette, emphasizing textures and forms. Formal characteristics like color, tone, scale and texture are particularly crucial to Davis’s Gestalt-psychology-based creative practice. Gestalt principles of human perception explain how viewers interpret visual information. The mind constantly seeks out figure/ground relationships even with abstract forms, and “groups” objects that are in close proximity to one another; if a particular shape is partially implied, the mind will fill in the rest. Davis deploys these principles along with a splash of color theory and an admirable curiosity for new materials. The result is geometric abstractions that engage viewers in meta conversations about how they are perceived.
Objective Nostalgia, which opened at The Red Arrow Gallery on June 5, features a selection of paintings and sculptures she created during 2020’s pandemic lockdowns. Geometric, abstract sculptures that recall mid-century works include Zipper Structure—a zig-zagging tower—Droop 1, and Shaped Shadow 1. Davis has a penchant for natural, homemade dyes and pigments, and she has colored many of the show’s sculptures black by burning them and sealing them with wax. A number of these works sport elements—horsehair, curving resin tubes, or rows of wooden pegs—that read like mohawks, mullets, and ponytails sprouting from the tops and sides of the various shapes they decorate. These hirsute forms call to mind how the pandemic affected hairstyles, as well as how we measure time and experiences against the lengths of our hair.
Davis’s recent Gestalt-inspired paintings have engaged viewers with the visual push-and-pull of juxtaposed varieties of colors, tones, and finishes. Objective Nostalgia goes one step further, bringing found textiles and thread to these surfaces to create sculptural paintings that literally push themselves off the gallery walls. A perceptional twist to these works is that their 3D aspects aren’t always obvious when viewing the paintings head on—it’s difficult for the mind/eye to differentiate between the visual depth of the picture plane and the actual physical depth created by sewing a shaggy piece of carpet to a canvas. Looking at the works from the side prompts the viewer to realize just how 3D many of the pieces actually are. Davis has abandoned pure abstraction in favor of distorted domestic narratives that touch on the boredom, repetition, and grieving that were the hallmarks of the last year. Mourning Routine resembles a sprinkle-covered doughnut being dipped in the titular cup of joe, while Nostalgia in the Kitchen Sink—one of the show’s most striking works—features and arrangement of rounded shapes resembling a collection of dirty dishes.
I’m intrigued by Davis’s leap to sculpture and sculptural paintings, and some of the works on the walls are among the artist’s strongest yet. Objective Nostalgia is a vibrant example of the therapeutic power of art and is most remarkable for avoiding the siren song of terrible, topical art about the pandemic. Instead, Davis transforms a global phenomenon into a deeply personal expression of her singular experience of those long and lonely days.
Object Nostalgia is on view at The Red Arrow Gallery in Nashville, TN through June 26, 2021.