In Mo-tif, New York painter David Fludd reinvents classic subject matter — still life to landscape to a portrait of a weathered, plain farm couple. Most of these works, created between 2000 and 2003, feature repetition of a black-and-white figure. Possibly the artist’s rendering of himself within the context of each imagined scene, the figure bears Fludd’s trademark bold brush strokes and rich texture.
“It’s his signature,” explains gallery assistant Nefertiti Thompson, of the recurring character. Instead of signing his name, Fludd uses the figure so that people will recognize his work. And not unlike the four-beat coda that can be heard in all of classical composer, Sergei Rachmaninov’s works, the impact is utterly memorable.
Fludd approaches painting very much like a musician would approach a song, utilizing logic and pattern to structure his work. It’s not so much that he’s painting as he is arranging the shapes and images across the canvas, at the same time creating a lively form of expressionism — otherworldly and fantastic, but based in reality by using physical material such as oils, acrylic, paper and human hair.
“The motif of these paintings is the process of invention and arrangement,” Fludd says in his press statement. “I am interested in employing a spontaneous epistemology as a means of articulating concepts of time, cosmology and transcendence in the context of painting.”
In his painting “Blue and Green Landscape” Fludd brushes delicate orange trees against strokes of blue sky and pale clouds. Layered front and center, however, is a coal-black car in with accents of marshmallow white, which contributes an oily and chunky texture to the piece. In “Inner Stellar Space” the figures spiral amid handprints and footprints into a kaleidoscopic vision of motion and being. Fludd also paints an obscured variation of Grant Wood’s famous “American Gothic” — an image that has become so ingrained in our visual and mental landscape, it almost resembles a still life in itself.
Many of the pieces employ fairytale or nursery rhyme-like imagery, plotting good characters against evil. In doing so, the gray area between these extremes emerges. In “Interior Scene” for example, visual clues might lead one to believe that two men with clawed hands have captured a young Goldilocks. But when you look more closely, you see that the captors have kind, almost vacant facial expressions and although topless, Goldilocks appears perfectly content, drinking a glass of wine.
In “Screaming Figure,” a black-and-white photocopy of a screaming woman’s face is placed atop a large black-and-white figure. In the background, a village of chimneys and brick buildings is strangely augmented by drawings of tiny golfers. Controlled yet chaotic, one cannot help but feel that these paintings are a keyhole view into the mind of an incredibly busy-brained artist.
Born in 1965 in New York, Fludd was introduced to art by his father, Reginald, also an artist. He received a bachelor’s from Morehouse College in 1987 and a master’s in fine arts from Yale University in 1991. He was artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1992 and a 1998 Solomon Guggenheim fellow.
David Fludd’s Mo-tif will be at the Sherry Washington Gallery, 1274 Library St., Detroit, until Dec. 31. Call 313-961-4500 for more information.Melissa Giannini is a freelance writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org