Saturday, April 10, 2010

Napoli Welcomes American Contemporary Artist Joe Davidson

Life here in Napoli town moves at a slow and yet frenetic pace - a contradiction like all things Napoli, and you just never know what's around the next corner. Take last night for example. I had been corresponding with Cynthia Penna, the curator at Art 1307 here in Naples about the opening of an exhibit by the Los Angeles based contemporary artist Joe Davidson and she kindly invited me to his opening of the Scotch™ Tape Affair. Being a lover of all types of art and especially contemporary art - though I will readily admit I am highly uneducated in the field - I was very excited to attend. Not only did it turn out to be an excellent show, but I also learned a great deal about the 18th century hunting villa, Villa di Donato in which it was held (the subject for another post), and a bit about Cynthia Penna and Art 1307.

It turns out that as the Art Director at Art 1307, Cynthia is a passionate advocate of contemporary art and she has made it her mission to bring new contemporary art forms to Naples. But rather than by way of a gallery, Art 1307 is a actually a not for profit Association that organizes art exhibits in Italy - Naples and Milan, France, and in the US. While that is impressive on its own, it turns out that these exhibits are done in the form of exchange shows with other correspondent associations. This month they brought Joe Davidson and his amazing work here to Naples and next month they are headed to Los Angeles to organize a large exchange show with LA ArtCore - their corresponding cultural association. The show will run in June in LA and feature 7 Italian artists, while back here in Napoli, Art 1307 will host 5 American artists in November. I have to say that I think that's an awesome form of cultural exchange!!! And Art 1307's mission certainly fits in perfectly with the contemporary art storm that has been sweeping the city since the mid 90s - check out 20th Century Art Arrives on Naples Art Scene

But back to the star of the show... and remember folks - I'm no art critic here, just a passionate observer, so I'm going to use Cynthia's words to describe Joe's body of work:
Plastic cities, plastic landscapes and in the not too distant future, plastic pseudo-humans: this is the theme of Davidson’s exhibition. A denunciation, but also the statement of an irremediable fact: our life is made of plastic. Is what we see around us the product of our evolution? And will our evolution inevitably lead to a world where our origins will disappear, to be entirely replaced by plastic and its derivates? This is the dilemma Davidson poses himself, and us
Approaching the villa along a stone path, illuminated by lanterns, and beautiful gardens on each side, we were immediately confronted by Joe's work. The wood doors of a huge arched opening were swung wide open, dramatically revealing his Untitled Landscape, 2009. Made entirely of toiletry bottles cast in flexible urethane foam it was a miniature city of plastic - "...without identity; modern cities all look alike: a grid of nameless streets..." And yet somehow I was captivated by this nameless, faceless modern city and I returned to it several times during my visit.

Next it was on to find the other city I had come to see - the Red City and again, Joe's work didn't disappoint. If Joe's contention is that "Our contemporary lives are an immense mass of plastic," he definitely makes his point. But at the same time, I could have gotten lost in that city for hours.

Leaving the Red City we found Joe's sculpture entilted Helix which was done entirely from the plastic cores from Scotch™ tape rolls.

Finally, we had a look at Joe's 2D landscapes. Done completely of Scotch Tape on vellum, they were absolutely fascinating.

Like all great art, Joe's work definitely leaves you with something to think about. A graduate from the San Francisco Art Institute with a Masters in Fine Art, he has held solo exhibitions at Jill Thayer Fine Art in Bakersfield, CA, the Lawrence Asher Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, and the Tatar Gallery in Toronto, Canada just to name a few.

Joe Davidson's Scotch™ Tape Affair will be here in Naples at Villa di Donato until April 29th and it is definitely worth the trip. The exhibit is by appointment only, but if you are interested, you can contact Art 1307 via their website or drop me an email at And, if you happen to be in LA in June check out Italy's artists at ArtCore.

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