“That Was Outside. Inside The Same Light Illuminates . . .“ Some Paintings by David Novros – Mike Zahn

Spring 2019

David Novros Lent Painting 1975

The ghosts of a vanished metaphysics haunt the world.Mind, matter, idea, technique, word, image— these are concepts whose potency has expired. The structures which frame their use harbor particular biases, those of art, or of philosophy, or possibly of politics, each in or well past their terminal stages. That which commands attention today is expediency in the service of economics. Nowhere are these issues clearer than in the works of David Novros, described by the artist himself as compromises with the conditions of their presence.

David Novros Untitled (Frog Altar) 1975

It’s possible there’s something diminished, anachronistic, or even ridiculous in the approach Novros takes. His works are massive, and seemingly at odds with the circulation of artworks in the marketplace. If not quite practical, this decision is pragmatic. It internalizes the role architecture plays in his work, and becomes its key strength. The presentation of multi-panel reliefs is figured as vacillating between the fragment and the whole, and addresses an entire lineage of painting from the paleolithic to the modern. This brings a predicament to the fore with which Novros has always struggled: When detached from its substrate, how does scale retain its integrity? The question is answered by the claim of a ‘painted place’, which for Novros accommodates performative aspects of the work while maintaining its specificity as the focus of ritual.

David Novros (L) DB, 2016 (R) Portable Cave 1975
Installation view Paula Cooper Gallery 2019

What’s discerned in the ‘portable murals’ Novros executes is the refinement of a sensibility attuned to volume and movement, to hue and surface, brought forth as the work perpetually unfolds in a curious time out of its immediate space. There’s no image here. Nor is there an object per se. What the work as such organizes is a proprioceptive awareness which takes hold as dark masses give way to swaths of lambent effulgence. A flashing of here and there insinuates an inside and an outside to the work, where the optical and the haptic mitigate against one another, giving rise to the paradox of a third state beyond reason and experience, or in terms Giotto would have recognized, logos and flesh. Here it’s tempting to suggest the paintings Novros makes incarnate a mysterious joining of the human and the divine in hypostatic instances of fleeting perspective. This implies unity, and a summoning of the faith required of painters of Trecento murals or of prehistoric caves. To achieve this now entails not a belief, but a doing, above all a not- doing of many things: A different being.

David Novros is currently showing at Paula Cooper Gallery, 524 West 26th Street, May 11 – June 15, 2019.

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