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David Byrd Drawings

Nov 18, 2021 — Jan 15, 2022

Featuring work by: David Byrd

Concurrent with In Resonance with David Byrd

Opening: Thursday November 18, noon-7pm 


Checklist (13MB)


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. 


David Byrd had two solo exhibitions during his lifetime, which were facilitated through a late friendship with Sidney Center artists Jody Isaacson and Jessica Farrell. In 2012 he had his first show at Maywood Arts, Sidney Center, NY, followed by a show in 2013 at Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA. Byrd passed away in 2013 at the age of 87. Recent solo exhibitions have occurred at venues including Anton Kern Gallery (2021 and 2019), White Columns (2019), Fleisher/Ollman (2018), and Greg Kucera Gallery (2017). In the summer and fall of 2017, the David Byrd Estate organized Ten Stops, a series of largely solo exhibitions of Byrd’s work in upstate New York, Brooklyn, and Seattle. Other solo exhibitions have been presented at Catherine G. Murphy Gallery, St Catherine University, St. Paul, MI (2015); Edgewood College Gallery, Madison, WI (2015); and Martin Mullen Gallery, SUNY-Oneonta, NY (2013). Byrd has shown in group exhibitions at Balice Hertling, Paris (2018–2019); Karma, Amagansett, NY (2016); and Zieher, Smith and Horton, New York, NY (2015). 


Special thanks to Jody Isaacson and Jessica Farrell of the David Byrd Estate, and Anton Kern Gallery, which represents the Estate.

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