Whitehot Magazine

Flex with the Ex: David West’s High Tension at Chinatown Soup

David West, “Cosmic Expressway” 2020. Pastel on black velvet-flocked paper, 49.5cm x 57cm.

David West: High Tension

Chinatown Soup

March 15 through April 3, 2022

By JOHN DRURY, May 2022

Expatriate maker David West was long a citizen of Manhattan’s Lower East Side (by way Chicago and California previously), before departing for Paris in 2002. No stranger to travel then, he returned to town recently, to share his current works in pastel, on paper, at Chinatown Soup; a smallish storefront gallery – fronting, on passing through a set of curtains at its far back, a cozy café serving tea and you guessed it…soup.

I'm David West, “Big Girl Says No”, 2021. Pastel on Hahnemuhle paper, 63cm x 48cm.

Long harboring a penchant for working on a wide variety of papers, David’s move to pastel from paint, made perfect sense. Inspired by a gifted set, and paper at hand, he set off in exploration a medium where colors are often muddied by inexperience and heavy hands. West was naturally able to retain a respect for the hues, kept fresh and true – as his prior and extensive experience with paint on paper proved advantageous his foray into what can be a difficult media. A paper connoisseur, he furnishes the descriptive specifics as a matter of course – a Japanese made paper, the French-made paper of Canson, Fabriano Tiziano (a paper containing cotton), Hahnemuhle (a maker since 1584) and a black velvet-flocked paper. He takes pride in their varied surfaces and sources and relishes the unique characteristics of each as enriching the whole.

Twenty similarly sized works ran down the full length of each wall, to our right and to our left, a celebration of that seen and that the imagined. Those “up” from a black ground were especially vibrant, his pallet of chosen colors seemingly jumping from the page in invitation sea and spatial experience. All in fact, revere in existential splendor, that depicted – be it beached-burned thigh or the empirical and levitating laissez-faire, enticing the experiential read.

David West, “Reading #2”, 2021. Pastel on poster paper, 65cm x 50cm.

In David’s Reading #1 and Reading #2, we find in each a female water-side bather - viewed from above, as by voyeuristic drone or the mind’s eye. Neither acknowledges our presence. Each is long torso-ed and lean cut, in jagged angularity if not solely the product of imagination, certainly then, free-reign desire. One lies prone, atop an American flag towel, a nod to the maker’s roots and a certain yearning. Like the cool, clear water, both are enticing. Cosmic Expressway (2020) is another experience, altogether then. In lieu a carnal appetite, we are absorbed instead, in an empirical relationship with the work based in optical play - enforced in line, shape and color - allowing (causing) a psychological tumble tested by core beliefs, free-association and an ability (desire) for the previously unknown. Here is the new. When one approaches the psychedelic, one finds themselves at the mercy conundrum; consequence, the product past and present, dictating a future now. Support comes only from the tooth of the paper’s flocking – only here are we allowed anchor in sacred earth, the mind otherwise left buoyant in what may be industrial scrap and an aura of floating light. Here we feel the intrusion of the unnatural. Here, we are only the guest. Without root, without hand hold, in the dusty chalk of West’s imagination is the introduction a pandemic fog feeding a fear of vulnerability and a search for clarification life’s true meaning, personal connection and the reverence of moment’s selected place. WM

John Drury

John Drury is a multi-media artist, published author, independent curator and instructor. Drury holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design (1983) and a Master of Fine Art Degree in sculpture (1985; including a minor in painting), from Ohio State University. John is the father of two teenagers, living in New York City since 1989 and has received the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award for his work in sculpture.

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