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January 4 - February 11, 2003 at Newspace Gallery, Hollywood

by Judith Christensen

Sometimes the surface of a sculpture is so striking, so sensuous, that we ask only that it seduce us. Occasionally we get that and more, as in the case of David Grant. The eight forms--all from 2002--in his exhibit entitled Dermis range from the erotically gorgeous to the patently funny. Each of the sculptures is made of leather that Grant has painted, sewn together with crossed baseball stitches, then stretched tautly over a steel armature. This blend of media and processes evokes multiple connections: to animal and human skin, to leather furniture, to the American sport of baseball, and to the traditions of both painting and sculpture.

An untitled circular wall piece with cupids, hearts, flowers, naked ladies and the word "Lucky" painted on it is blatantly erotic, but with a sardonic twist. Instead of sweet cherub faces, the cupids have calaveras for heads. Lucky, indeed. The eroticism in another circular wall piece is subtler, drawing you in slowly and, because of that, more deeply. The neutral background color and prominence of the cross-stitching mean that you can’t miss the reference to a giant baseball. The imagery is lovely--sumptuous red roses with leaves and stems gracefully twining around them--but the surface isn’t flat. Each rose is raised, resembling a soft, supple breast. The juxtaposition of baseball and breast, male and female, and the use of the rose--with its soft petals and unpleasant thorns--conjures up a variety of inferences. In Grant’s world, things are not always as they appear. Every rose has its thorn, and beauty is skin-deep.

In two of the sculptures Grant intensifies the human and/or animal body references that the stretched leather suggests. Sinewy blue and red vein-like forms snake across the surface of one of the sculptures (untitled) that is shaped like a piece of bone. There’s a hole in the middle, as if the marrow has been sucked out. But the painted veins and arteries, and the volume of the piece suggest there’s still meat on this bone. Here and there on the surface are patches of white daisy-like flowers, like mint garnish on a rack of lamb. This touch of humor hints at our euphemistic attempts to gloss over unpalatable realities.

“Cross Section with Plaid,”
2002, rawhide, leather, steel
& acrylic, 66 x 55 x 44”.

“Untitled (P.B.),” 2002, rawhide,
leather, steel & acrylic.

“Untitled (B.F.),” 2002, rawhide,
leather, steel & acrylic.

“Untitled (T),” 2002, rawhide,
leather, steel & acrylic.

“Untitled (I.T.),”2002, rawhide,
leather, steel & acrylic.

In Cross Section w/ Plaid a similar bone-like piece has been stuck onto a vibrantly colored plaid form with a large, bulbous base. It appears as if one of the parts has been peeled or skinned, and the other clothed in outlandish fabric. Though ample, the odd plaid covering cannot contain the bone-like section, which seems about to fly out and off. Clothes may make the man, on first glance, but look a little harder and a bit of the real person underneath is bound to surface.

There’s an inside-out feeling to Grant’s sculptures. The surfaces he creates are like skin--both literally and metaphorically; and we are asked to consider the idea of layers that are normally hidden.