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David Byrd Drawings

Nov 18 — Jan 15, 2021

Featuring work by: David Byrd

Concurrent with In Resonance with David Byrd

Opening: Thursday November 18, noon-7pm 


Fleisher/Ollman is pleased to present two exhibitions exploring the art of David Byrd: one of Byrd’s drawings and the other featuring artists whose work resonates  and shares affinities with the artist. David Byrd (b. 1926, Springfield, IL; d. 2013, Oxford, NY) worked in obscurity mainly in upstate New York and was active from the late 1940s until his death in 2013. His output was substantial and lifelong, but his first exhibition was not until the last year of his life. Byrd was a keen observer of the human condition and his rural environment, painting and drawing genre scenes and landscapes in a style that channels the synthetic cubism of Amédée Ozenfant, with whom be briefly studied, by way of Magic Realism, a figurative yet fantastical current that paralleled the advent of Abstract Expressionism as Byrd came into his own as an artist in the 1950s. His strange and dejected drawings and paintings focus mainly on the community of Sidney Center, NY, where he lived during the last two decades of his life and where he was most productive. His subjects include auctioneers and attendees at country auctions, shoppers, street scenes, patrons in laundromats, as well as haunting images based life experience tempered by fantasy.  Most unsettling of all are Byrd’s depictions of daily life in the psychiatric ward of the Veterans’ Administration Medical Hospital, Montrose, NY, where Byrd was an orderly from 1958-1988.


Byrd sometimes created drawings with an eye for their later realization as paintings, and in other instances, made them autonomously. Whether as preparatory studies or stand-alone works, the drawings showcase Byrd’s trademark attention to detail through careful rendering with a simultaneous blurring in which bodies transform into fuzzy specters. With Byrd, there is a pronounced symbiosis between drawing and painting. The lightness of his graphite touch bestows on the scene a similar hazy, surreal effect that he achieves through his signature dry brush, thinned oil painting technique. Fleisher/Ollman also presents a group of much smaller sketches on what appears to be scrap paper that are more spontaneous and presumably made on shifts at the VA Hospital. 


Concurrently on view, In Resonance with David Byrd, presents painting and drawings by artists ranging from historical proponents of figurative modernism to living artists all whose work shares Byrdian sensibilities like an affinity for the forlorn, the belief in the profundity in the quotidian, the alienation of contemporary life, and an empathy for the marginalized. 

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