David Row (1991)
by Garner H. Tullis
Fuji Gallery

A Silent Tableau

“When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntary sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at that exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines.”

-Vladimir Nabokov

Near Constantine Brancusi’s “Table of Silence” is Brancusi’s “Endless Column”, and, like Brancusi, David Row takes a segment (a part) of an infinite continuum so as to have the possibility of openended solutions. Mr. Row’s forms, having this geometric quality of Brancusi, may confuse us at first as his resultant objects appear as an illusion on a two-dimensional picture plane a surface illusion yet anything but a surficial illusion. He employs fragments, containers of infiniteness, to reinforce the “wholeness” of his ideas. In the act of his painting, he uses cancellation (painting out) both as “the possibility of removing” to retrieve a remembered essence and “the possibility of moving forward” toward “the arrested center” from which emanates all essences. As one sinks through his physical plane, one sees an on-going history within his surfaces, the “spoor” of his journey, drawn out through his materials of woodblock, paint, and paper. Beneath this skin, stretched over the corpus of his thinking, are the reflections of his comings and goings.

David Row’s monotypes are made of the stuff of shadows, metaphysical shadows, such as we find on the wall of Plato’s’cave in The Republic (the cave of man’s consciousness).

Picasso, when queried about the meaning within his “Guernica”, responded, “If I could say it in words, why would I paint?” Matisse advises, “If one would be a painter, the first thing one should do is to cut out one’s tongue!” Now, perhaps neither you nor I are a painter, and we seek an articulation beyond Mr. Row’s visual language. Some of us will find meaning through metaphysics. others may find themselves in the dichotomous silence between “being” and “nonbeing” (and David Row reads Samuel Beckett). For others, meaning may be found in the alchemy of paint and material forged on the platen of the monotype press, growing feet, walking out to greet them in silence, Mr. Row’s tableau of silence. Nabokov also warns us in his novel, Transparent Things, “A thin veneer of immediate reality is spread over natural and artificial matter, and whoever wishes to remain in the now, with the now, on the now, should please not break its tension film.”

January 28, 1991