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Paintings in ‘Introspection’ reflect an artist who continues to grow as a person and develop as artistic force


There remain just a few short days to view David Acevedo’s solo show at the Davis Art Center. It’s called Introspection, and is well worth the time it takes to go downtown and amble through the cavernous grand atrium in the former post office that was completed in 1933.

“The pieces in this exhibition are the product of a year of self-discovery and introspective analysis,” says Acevedo in the Artist Statement he drafted for the show.

“One particular characteristic is the use of techniques and mediums, such as silkscreen printing and spray painting, which I’d abandoned a long time ago.”

Thematically, the works in this series resurrect memories of people, experiences and influences from David’s past. While that makes the content highly personal, the blend of the abstract and surrealist imagery that David utilizes for his unique brand of pictorial storytelling enables every viewer to come up with their own slant or interpretation of his vibrant compositions.

“It’s a little bit about me, who I am, what I’ve done, where I’ve been,” David acknowledges. “I added symbols of things that I keep to myself, which creates a personal connection to each painting. But I always prefer that people interpret things on their own, based on their own experiences.”

One painting, however, leaves little room for interpretation. That’s The Extent of My Freedom, which is clearly autobiographical given that it is David’s countenance that stares back at the viewer from the canvas mounted on the far wall of the Davis Art Center’s East Conservatory.

“Basically, the idea behind the painting is that there are so many things I want to get done as a person, as an artist, but I’m tied down by reality, my job, the status quo, which are symbolized by the anchor that’s holding me down. Still, I have wings, so eventually I’ll figure out a way to free myself and accomplish my goals. And I’m completely naked in the picture – it’s not my body, it’s a model – not because I’m exposed and vulnerable, but as another expression of freedom in my mind.”

Notwithstanding the self-portraiture, Acevedo is an Everyman – a stand in for anyone who, in spite of being bound to the past and trapped by circumstance, yearns to soar above the self-imposed and the outside limitations that hold him or her in place.

Several of the pieces in the Introspection series were affected by the socio-political events that are transpiring right now, from the COVID-19 pandemic to race relations and social justice. For example, The Other Brother could be related to Black Lives Matter and the racial tension the country is currently experiencing.

The subject of this composition is a somber, severe-looking African-American male. At first blush, one might imagine that Acevedo did the work in response to the murder of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery. But he painted it long before either of those killings. While he did intend the composition as a statement of solidarity (hence the name), David had no inkling how significant the work would be for those who attended the show’s opening on July 5.

“It was interesting,” David recounts. “People were attaching names to the man I painted. George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Stephon Clark. I was amazed by how many people were drawn to it.”

David McAtee. Sean Reed. Ariane McCree. Philandro Castille.

The painting could just as well have been titled Say Their Names.

Then there’s Harbinger, a painting the artist nearly withheld from the show. It has a color palette and industrial cast that makes it stand out from the other works in the series. The title suggests that his winged subject is a messenger of things to come, “like the Ghost of Christmas Future,” warning of dire consequences unless we change our errant ways. Perhaps that’s to our planet and climatology unless we arrest and reverse greenhouse gas emissions. Or the destruction of businesses and the contraction of commerce as a result of the pandemic and our collective unwilling to wear masks and refrain from social gatherings. Or perhaps Acevedo’s ghost is a modern representation of Mercury, here to guide lost souls to the underworld waiting below.

Viewers are welcome to assign their own meanings to Harbinger. For his part, Acevedo concedes that his message is not as clear as he’d have liked. That’s because he staged the painting for a photographer who’d been sent by Gulfshore Life to get some actions shots for an article the magazine was publishing on David and his work. That’s because David’s process possesses aspects of Abstract Expressionism. The symbolism, brush strokes and even the mediums he uses are designed to express the thoughts, feelings and emotions he’s experiencing in the moment, and that’s just not something that can be manufactured for a photo shoot. It must bubble up from deep inside.

“Under the pressure of painting just to paint, I honestly lost sight of what I was doing. So I went on a different tangent and I almost decided against putting [the painting] in the show. I had intended a more upbeat message, but sometimes the message we receive isn’t necessarily a positive one – like the messages we’ve been getting lately.”

In the final analysis, the paintings that comprise Introspection are thoughtful, considered, careful expressions of the mental and emotional state of an artist who continues to grow as a person and develop as an artistic force. And if you make the trek to the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, you’ll be treated to works from two other evolving series, Those Damn Cocks and Islands in the Sky. It’s well worth the time and effort to make your way downtown, pandemic notwithstanding. So make plans to drop by before the show closes on July 31.

July 26, 2020.


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