Oil on plywood
30 x 26 inches
David Lefkowitz: New Cultivars
January 23—March 21, 2009
If geneticist Gregor Mendel had cross-bred pointillist Georges Seurat and minimalist Donald Judd in the garden of Edward Scissorhands, he may have developed something akin to the paintings in ‘New Cultivars,’ David Lefkowitz’s solo exhibition at Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago, which opens Friday, January 23.
The show is comprised of paintings of unlikely topiary structures isolated like specimens on a ground of Baltic birch plywood. The images, representations of natural forms that have been manipulated to resemble representations of culture, come out of a desire to embody internal contradictions of our ambivalent stance toward nature. At first glance, these paintings suggest ostensibly natural forms, but their artifice is emphasized, thus drawing attention to the degree to which we humans engineer our experience of nature. Compositionally, they appear as single ‘specimens’ removed from their spatial context and isolated on a ground. Though painted by hand, they almost read as decals applied mechanically to the wood surface.
Lefkowitz refers to these seemingly benign arboreal follies as “cultivars”, a term used to describe different genetic variations of a plant developed through science. The term implies human intervention at an earlier state than one might normally associate with topiary. Some of the paintings, like Lamppost and Culvert suggest practical use value, which is not feasible when these forms are composed of shrubs. Others allude to natural forms that ‘grow’ in alternate ways- A Palm without fronds and an upside-down conifer (Inverted Pine). Each image complicates assumptions about how we view nature.