Already in 2020, art exhibitions in Nashville have afforded visitors the chance to experience the legacy and stewardship of contemporary art patronage and the role visual art can play in our memory of catastrophic events. Adding to these early-year offerings is a new show that experiments with a particular approach to visual art — the chance to explore not just the act of curation, but the cutting-edge of how art itself is conveyed.
On view until February 1, 2020, The Red Arrow Gallery is hosting “Laughing With My Eyes Open” by Lindsy Davis, a Nashvillian who has been dedicated to the study of Gestaltism. The Gestalt approach to art takes its name from an early 20th century German and Austrian school of psychology, derived from the german word “gestalt,” meaning “pattern” or “configuration.” When applied to visual art, Gestaltism has come to define a theory that the sum of visual composition can be more than its parts — that viewers will make larger associations derived from groups of objects.
It’s a school of thought that Davis has been exploring for a decade, creating work in “Laughing With Your Eyes Open” that leverages tone, gesture and finishes to manipulate the way viewers perceive the canvases’ negative space, the association of portrayed shapes and the depth of the works.
“For the past ten years I have been playing with how the eye filters what the mind perceives as spacial depth,” Davis said in an artist’s statement provided by the gallery. “My goal with this present body of work is to experiment with what is necessary for the mind to see depth with minimal visual cues to grasp onto and how that process can fabricate memory and nostalgia, which elongates the time it takes for the eye to filter and the mind to decipher meaning and depth.”
Political Lamps, a large airbrush and mixed media piece in the show, offers some clear cues about how Davis plays with depth and tone. Stark black and white shapes are layered on top of a blurred background. Despite the two-dimensional composition, there appears to be significant space between them, though it’s difficult to distinguish what is represented as closest to the viewer. The absence of recognizable figures or shapes is key to the piece’s Gestaltian play as it becomes a formidable challenge to distinguish or group what’s on the canvas. This effect is all the more powerful when viewing Davis’ work in series.
“Davis is … known for her gesture and negative space work that push and pull the eyes’ perception of space and depth,” per Red Arrow Gallery. “She works prolifically in series, her compositions question ideas of perceived perception through Gestaltism.”
Davis holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Her work has been exhibited around the country and in South Africa and Canada.
The Red Arrow Gallery is located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4, in East Nashville.