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June 21 - August, 2008 at Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills

by Kathy Zimmerer

"Silk Flowers," 2006,
oil on canvas, 8' x 7'.

"Iron Regimen," 2006,
oil on canvas, 8' x 6'.

"Paint Drop," 2006,
oil on canvas, 7' x 6'.

"Big Box," 2006,
oil on canvas, 8' x 6'.

Well known for his sketchy and dramatic figurative paintings during the eighties, David Amico’s work has become progressively more abstract as he has blown up familiar shapes and focused on their inherent organic form.  Growing out of his “Drift/Trace” series from 2007, these current paintings depict the industrial remnants strewn around the streets near his studio in the Skid Row area, including silk flowers; discarded packing and swatches of fabric. In a 1997 interview with painter Nancy Evans he delineated his fascination with these elements: “I still try to mess around with some industrial sort of architectural elements. It's always been part of what fascinated me about living downtown. We're living in the middle of the city (with). . .all the paraphernalia, clothes being hauled out onto the docks, goods and services, all of that stuff. There's an industrial edge, patterns off of material and stuff. . .that's been in the work.”

Amico finds visual poetry and grace in these leftover urban elements; corrugated cardboard becomes striated layers of a luminous waterfall of tan paint that ends in a white froth of packing material in “Big Box.” The entire image is densely interwoven with threads of black and yellow. The inherent rhythm of the urban landscape emerges in this painting, with accents of grey and green providing the appropriate backdrop.

The harsh environment of Skid Row is turned into a joyous lyricism in “Silk Flowers.” Delicate blossoms tumble down Amico’s canvas in a profusion of lavender, peach and yellow. As a lush ode to the fragility of life the images elegantly unfold and curve over the surface of the painting.

By magnifying drips of paint in “Paint Drop,” Amico creates a bold abstract statement of black, red and blue against a wood grain backdrop that sizzles with linear energy.  All the elements join to balance out the jazz-infused composition; from the brilliant red paint drop on the right and the blue on the left, to the energetic black line that winds its way through the composition and unites these elements.

In “Iron Regimen” Amico flattens out drifting octagonal shapes of gold and terra cotta, again unified by his characteristic meandering black line, against a rust red backdrop. The shapes flit over the surface like a two dimensional mobile that has been compressed. The composition is anchored by subtle color highlights, including a frame of green in the left corner and a deep red half circle in the right. In “Blue Tape” Amico drenches the canvas in a deep royal blue with only the black angular lines emerging from the glowing surface. His use of color ratchets up the ordinary into the extraordinary as the black tape bisects the dynamic backdrop. In “Untitled (White)” a spider web of prickly lines covers the canvas as pieces of white paper drift through the composition.

His imaginative and layered use of urban elements creates a series of paintings that are visually eloquent and organic. Each canvas seems to have a life of its own as the repeated detritus of urban life grows and multiplies in collectively cohesive compositions. While immersed in a sensibility that uses pattern and decoration to create his images, they ascend to a higher level of originality. His mastery of space and color are evident. Varied as they are, all are linked by incisive and rhythmic lines that he skillfully weaves through the compositions. Amico’s acute power of observation is reflected in the cast-off junk of the contemporary city life, which he makes a point of transforming into a thing of beauty.