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January 13 - February 19, 2005 at Earl McGrath Gallery, West Hollywood

by Ray Zone

“The Architect," 2004,
scratchboard, 20 x 16".

“Some Velvet Morning," 2004,
scratchboard, 42 x 68".

“City Girl," 2004,
scratchboard, 24 x 36".

“On Hoover Dam," 2004,
scratchboard, 16 x 20".
Centuries ago, the very first printed images were created laboriously by hand.  The images were cut into the face of a block of wood or, later, etched into copper or steel plates.  The scratchboard art of David Trulli harkens back to this primordial technology.  But there is a paradox at the heart of Trulli’s art.  He uses this simple, manual technology to create haunting narrative commentaries on the digital age and high tech communications in the 21st century.  Eschewing more contemporary imaging techniques, Trulli’s art is scratched through black India ink into a piece of masonite covered with white clay.

Most woodcut and scratchboard art is small, reproduced at the same size by contact printing.  Trulli’s works approach monumental scale, so creating the individual images is extremely time intensive.  “Some Velvet Morning” was inspired by the pop song of the same name by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, and is an huge 42 x 68 inches.  This work depicts a wakeful man in the dead of night looking out through large picture windows at a vast urbanscape.  In the nocturnal sky above the city are arrayed immense concentric rings of white energy.  A telephone looms as a gigantic compositional presence in the foreground.

“All my skies have a lot of activity in them,” says Trulli. “If you go outside on a warm night, the sky is just boiling.  When I look up at a clear sky, I know that there are jet streams, trails of exhaust, chemicals and a jam-packed radio-magnetic spectrum.  It’s all flying around us.  We walk through this soup and we don’t see it.  So, I visually put that into my work.”

Another large piece in the exhibit, “Dish Girl,” is 36 x 40 inches.  In this work a single woman in the foreground walks past a chaotic series of satellite dishes that are pointing up at a night sky that is frantic with electromagnetic waves.  Arrested narratives and a foreboding sense of the uncanny inform all of Trulli’s images.

A 24 x 36 inch-sized piece titled “City Girl” might just baffle the casual viewer.  Momentarily, I turned my head sideways to view it.  This horizontally-formatted work depicts a woman’s head, with dark eyes regarding the viewer, jutting in from the left vertical edge of the image.  The woman’s hair streams straight up towards the top of the panel to convey that she is falling with tremendous velocity.  Behind the falling woman, massive buildings with luminous windows rise up to the top of the picture frame.  The buildings all converge to a vanishing point beneath the bottom edge of the image, the unseen but ominous destination towards which the impassive woman in the foreground is apparently hurtling.

The artist’s interest in narrative is not surprising.  Trulli is a former cinematographer who worked on low-budget motion pictures and in that medium experienced what he characterizes as an “amazing” amount of creative frustration.  As a scratchboard artist, of course, Trulli fulfills the functions of screenwriter, cameraman and director all in one.

The narrative impulse is most central to “Get Used To It,” consisting of a sequential series of ten images, each rendered on a 5 1/2 inch square panel. The sequence opens with a solitary urban individual who, over the course of the series, makes his way to the wide-open nocturnal spaces of the country.  In the final panel, rendered small in the rural vastness, the individual looks up at the sky to see communications satellites passing overhead.  Wordlessly, Trulli has conveyed the inescapable nature of technology in the 21st century.