Sculptures challenge human isolation from nature
Gallery manipulates natural images into urban scenes
John Davis' "New Works" addresses society's segregation of manufactured and natural worlds, combining materials from the urban structural world with found woods from nature.
In these large sculptures, on display at Dinnerware Artists Co-Operative Gallery, 135 E. Congress St., concrete and steel damage and invade dead fragments of trees, implicating the urban intrusion on nature through expansion while exploring the human relation to both worlds.
Davis' keen relationship with materials make these works easily accessible and especially poignant.
In "Settler's Alignment," untreated stocks of wood penetrate a steel wall and emerge on the other side as square, lumber-like, pieces of wood being clamped and wedged by pieces of steel.
On one side, the natural logs mimic the stumps of trees transported into the urban environment to serve a decorative function. The emerging side addresses the way the urban environment has manipulated the natural world to create manufactured materials.
The splitting and clamping of the wood take on a violent yet sexual quality in "Through the Wood," which presents a piece of natural wood that has been clamped and compressed at its tip and wedged at its base by a steel support system.
The stump of wood is, on a literal level, being sexually violated both in the feminine sense at the base as well as in the masculine sense as a phallus. In this linking of human desire - from the urban social environment - with nature, Davis address the idea of humanity, as a species, being bound to nature.
The affiliation of the natural with the human is also evident in such works as "Off the Land," in which five wooden limbs echo bodies being lynched by steel. Beyond such literal interpretation, the work evokes a sense of nature being an extension of the natural human condition yet presents the paradox of separation form the natural world.
In contrast to the heavy, stagnant structures implicit in the medium, "Notes on Vertical Landscape" and "What Surveyors Know? But Surveyors Do.," feature silent videos.
"Notes on Vertical Landscape," displays a rigid concrete structure which enclosing wood stalks into grid-like a form on three sides. Attached to the concrete is steel pipe that supports a television screen playing a video of the edge of a paved road.
The dividing line between pavement and dirt, in addition to the grid of the wood stalks, challenges the ability and effect of imposing order upon nature, and removing nature from human existence - a challenge Davis is inviting his viewers to explore.