Various Works

Hammer Projects: Enrico David

Transient figures and intangible forms dwell in the work of Enrico David. They retain a graphic quality as they transition from spontaneous sketches on paper to paintings, sculptures, and works in other mediums. This exhibition, David’s first solo presentation in Los Angeles, takes its cue from a singular figure modeled in bronze around a hollow animal bone and bound to a protruding blade. The statuette is like an anthropomorphic pocketknife that embodies both permanence, through its molded outlines, and ephemerality, through its gaping cavity. Around it, paper mummies crawl across the wall of the gallery, a haunting silhouette peers out of a large canvas, and ethereal profiles form a see-through metal screen. The infinite shifts and vortexes of David’s underworld are evoked in the streaming lines of his drawings and the repetitive loops of a handcrafted tapestry. Experienced together, the works in this exhibition evoke the continuous metamorphosis of body and soul. Groundless images and vacuous gazes exude a sense of unease in the visitor, who is at once observer and participant in a staged scene. Its components recall the miscellaneous displays of regional arts and crafts museums, but they could also be props for a Surrealist set. Hammer Projects: Enrico David is organized by Allegra Pesenti, curator, Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts.



By Allegra Pesenti

The museum of the memory is not a static place, but a gallery under constant refurbishment. —John Mack

The small space at the Hammer Museum known as the Vault Gallery is an appropriate setting for Enrico David’s mutable figures and forms. It was designed to house a rare manuscript by Leonardo da Vinci, which was unofficially named the Hammer Codex after the museum’s founder acquired this Renaissance work in 1980 (1). The gallery’s arched walls and cavernous quality are now ghostly reminders of its original function, yet the room is like a deconsecrated chapel that continues to tease the imaginations of artists and curators (2). The architectural memory of the space, as well as the eerie absence of the object that it was conceived for, make it particularly compatible with David’s investigation of the theme of passing. 

David alludes to the current installation as being detached from narrative and moving instead toward the rendition of an overarching feeling, likening it to the less definable assimilation of the senses experienced during a mass (3). His description suggests a temporary memorial, like those sites of spontaneous ceremony that, as defined by Erika Doss, can be considered repositories of emotions or “a public archive of feelings”(4). David’s imagery and choices of mediums evoke the transience of memory and the impermanence of such commemorations. A see-through screen mounted in steel delineates three profiles that march on curved legs toward the unknown. Paper silhouettes—or “mummies,” as he refers to them—crawl precariously along a wall like furtive prey. A large portrait of an androgynous figure extends elastically across the canvas, yet it could slide off at any moment. Its timeless features recall at once a Renaissance nobleman, an Asian warrior, and, according to the artist, “a bloodless turd so evolved as to wear its own expression of disgruntlement.” Two bodies hold onto each other in a columnar plaster sculpture, head to head, as if to protect themselves from each other’s vertigo. In reality it is a single body, as David explains, “clinging to its own distorted mirror image, its core replaced by what appears to be a metal cage, a rudimentary washing machine component perhaps, or a place for the kitten inside.” His forms are fleeting, like memory itself, which Doss interprets as being “valorized for refusing to ‘stand still’ . . . for being elusive and unstable, open-ended and unresolved”(5). 

—Enrico David


Hammer Projects is a series of exhibitions focusing primarily on the work of emerging artists.

Hammer Projects is made possible by a major gift from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation. 

Generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and by Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy. Additional support is provided by Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley; the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; the Decade Fund; and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.