Enrico David

Enrico David

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

September 18, 2007

Enrico David
27 September – 11 November 2007

The Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1Y 5AH

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This autumn, the Institute of Contemporary Arts is staging the first major public exhibition by artist Enrico David. David is presenting work from the last five years, including paintings, works on paper, sculptures and assemblages as well as two large-scale installations — one of which has been made especially for the ICA.

Over the last decade, Enrico David, Italian by birth but based in London, has quietly established a reputation as one of Britain’s most original artists. This is the first exhibition that demonstrates ongoing strands within his work, which often features stylised figures staged within erotic or tragic-comic scenarios.

David’s work borrows from craft techniques and modern design, and in the past the artist has employed textiles and embroidery in his work, as well as drawing on interior decoration. However in his practice craft and design are subject to both distortion and degradation. David’s interest in the languages of design (as well as those of painting and sculpture) reflects a broader dynamic in his work, such languages giving him “an opportunity to explore discontinuity, disruption and misuse — as part of my interest in personal adaptation.”

David’s exhibition at the ICA is in two distinct parts. The lower gallery features a themed selection of painting and sculpture from the last five years, specifically chosen by the artist. The sculptures include Sodulater (2005), a totem or fetish made from copper and wood, as well as a new sculpture made from a draughtsman’s doll. These dolls and effigies are a recurring feature in David’s work, and some of the figures introduced here reappear elsewhere in the exhibition: the artist considers the group of works in the lower gallery as a kind of “casting session”.

The lower gallery also features a large painting, The history of the fracturing of hope (2004) and a group of twenty-two gouaches, Shitty Tantrum (2006-07), works which depict an array of characters in a series of tableaux. David has often worked with performance and text, and his art can be interpreted as a form of theatre, re-enactment or psychodrama: centring on episodes of trauma; shot through with desire, guilt and secrecy; and ultimately promoting the transformations of masquerade as an elaborate survival strategy. However, the work resists simple biographical readings, hovering instead between the specific and the archetypal.

The two upper galleries each contain a single autonomous installation. The first of these is Spring Session Men (2007), originally created for the Project Arts Centre in Dublin. Running down one wall is a seven-metre long multi-panel painting, mimicking a piece of Art Deco marquetry and featuring a frieze or chorus line of twelve sharply-tailored men. Framed embroideries on canvas and a hanging medallion complete the scene, together with a large conference table covered in memos — the latter featuring the logo of a fictional company. The work is a kind of boardroom, but one shot through with a suppressed, hysterical homoeroticism.

The second installation, created for the ICA, is in the form of a diorama. This scene, achieved through trompe-l’il effects, is based in part on a Surrealist photo-collage from 1935 by Dora Maar. The latter image features a panelled room, mud strewn across its floor, inhabited by a matronly figure and a young boy who appears to rub himself against her. In David’s version this image is combined with more personal material, as the room is crossed with a bedroom designed for the young David by his father in the early 1970s, and the figures are replaced by cut out images of a doll and of the artist himself.
Enrico David was born in Ancona, Italy, in 1966. He moved to London in the late 1980s, and studied fine art at Central St Martin’s in the early 1990s. Solo exhibitions include projects at Cabinet Gallery, London, and Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne, as well as David, Project Art Centre, Dublin (2003), Douchethatdwarf, Transmission, Glasgow (2003) and Chicken Man Gong, Tate Britain, London and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2005 and 2007 respectively). His group exhibitions include The best book about pessimism I ever read, Kunstverein Braunschweig (2002), Clandestine, Venice Biennale (2003), Flesh at War with Enigma, Kunsthalle Basel (2004), British Art Show 6, Hayward Gallery, London and tour (2005), Tate Triennial 2006, Tate Britain, London (2006) and The Subversive Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Van Abbe Museum, Einhoven (2006).

A programme of events will accompany the exhibition, including gallery talks by writers Dan Fox and Christabel Stewart and artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz. See website for full details.
Supported by:

The Elephant Trust has contributed to the artist’s fee

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Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
September 18, 2007

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