David von Schlegell
China Art Objects, Los Angeles
January 7 – February 4, 2012
David von Schlegell is known primarily for his large scale, outdoor, and public sculpture projects; however, he began his career as a painter – learning to paint from his father. He returned to painting late in life. His final show was at Althea Viafora Gallery in 1991, and it focused on monochrome, poured paintings on wood. These last works form the core of a new exhibition at China Art Objects in Los Angeles. Images of von Schlegell’s early paintings are difficult to come by, but an early expressionist landscape in the Smithsonian evokes a romantic approach to nature still evident in the later paintings.
Von Schlegell’s experience as a sculptor, however, is the primary influence on these paintings, which reveal a fascination with the material states of paint and poetic transformations that occur from one elemental state to another. The paintings are made from a viscous mixture of oil and Polyur – an industrial paint – poured onto wood panels. The resulting effect, Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer noted recently in Artforum, is that “each panel is a gradient field of darkly pooled pigment with a concentrated opacity that simulates surprising depth.” Though solid, Von Schlegell’s pooled fields of paint retain their aqueous appearance while their resinous quality alludes to both amber and varnish, a material made by combining burned amber with linseed oil.
In these final paintings, material is subjected to both a physical and philosophical alchemy that returns von Schlegell the sculptor to his romantic, painterly roots.