Jeffrey Stark is pleased to present Walk Right In…, an exhibition of work by David Diao and Gwenn Thomas. Comprised of three works on canvas by Diao, and three sculptures by Thomas, the show will be on view from February 18 through March 10, 2018. Though Diao and Thomas have known each other since 1963, Walk Right In… marks their first two-person show.
On view in the gallery is a set of three paintings by David Diao, and a group of three functional sculptures by Gwenn Thomas. Thomas’ sculptures are arranged on the floor, and one of Diao’s paintings hangs on each wall of the gallery. Diao’s works on canvas are small acrylic paintings that blend visual references from works by Kazimir Malevich and Francis Picabia to assemble tight, geometric compositions. Thomas’ sculptures, each titled Standard Candles, are carefully proportioned wooden boxes that are inspired by Le Corbusier’s tabouret cabanon, a multipurpose stool that the Swiss architect designed for his cabin in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in 1952. Taken together, Walk Right In… positions a group of precise historical references alongside a set of orthogonal forms to create a dialogue between sets of histories, spaces, and forms.
David Diao’s practice has long been concerned with specific histories of painting and architecture. His compositions are often derived from shapes or strategies employed in major works of art from the 20th Century, and he’s returned to individual works by Kazimir Malevich, Barnett Newman, and Philip Johnson to develop complex bodies of work throughout his career. The suite of paintings on view in the gallery are each comprised of two elements: the left half of the composition features a square, circle, or cross, taken from Malevich’s Suprematist grammar of forms; and the right half of the composition features a pattern of compressed vertical bands, which refer to Francis Picabia’s paintings Volucelle II and Conversation II. The Picabia works to which Diao’s paintings refer have been understood as star charts and scientific diagrams that illustrate diffracted light waves, and juxtaposed with Malevich’s forms, give the impression of an iconic shape receding into space.
Gwenn Thomas’ work similarly makes reference to iconic forms from the history of art, reinterpreting the shape of Le Corbusier’s tabouret cabanon. Comprised of six wooden planes adjoined to create a box, Thomas cut large apertures on various sides to reveal brightly painted interiors in shades of black, salmon, and yellow. Though all three sculptures are the same size, each work rests on a different side, which makes them stand at unique heights. Collectively titled Standard Candles, the works constellate across the gallery floor, making reference to the astronomic concept of a “Standard Candle,” or a celestial body of known luminosity that can be used to determine the location of other planets and stars. Placed alongside Diao’s paintings, Thomas’ works elegantly establish connections between sets of otherwise unrelated references.