Enrico David: The Hepworth, Wakefield
This Is Tomorrow
Francesca Cavallo
8 January 2016

There is a substantial difference between the two ambiences that compose Enrico David’s exhibition at the Hepworth Gallery. As I move from one room to the next, small figures on plinths and papers migrate into the space I share with them, almost liberated from their state of latency to become bodies, space markers, creatures half submerged in their own dimension.

I have always had an instinctive antipathy for the plinth: a plinth reminds me that a sculpture is an object, encrusted in a squared off dimension, with imaginary walls and separated sense of scale. Enrico David’s small sculptures also appear prisoners of their pedestals, captive in a transient space between second and third dimension, abstraction and figuration, utility and shamanism. Like tools, some of them seem ready to be taken away, others are inseparable from their settings like marionettes, or appear petrified in the process of transformation from drawing, to sculpture and vice versa. As I experience the second room, however, the opposite happens: a diagonal procession of degrading silhouettes, like a theatre curtain welcomes me; the plinth has either disappeared or I must have just stepped into one: it feels like a courtyard where different species of beings are absorbed in their own business, indifferent from each other and yet sharing the same space (as me).

More or less anthropomorphic, baseless shapes lean against wall, hang from the ceiling, recline on glass surfaces, or emerge from the floor. On the back wall, an evanescent face on a canvas appears. David’s spatial orchestration of his sculptures evokes Josef Koudelka’s photograph of an asylum in Sicily. The composition here has the same sense of empathy, proximity in distance that the famous photographer portrayed in relation to madness, but also, in my view, the solitary landscapes of De Chirico metaphysical paintings. With the difference that one is compelled to approach David’s sculptures and look at them face-to-face, almost breaking into their privacy and become the object of their gaze. It is almost as if sculpture here has found a time and a space to exist in, a present tense where I can encounter it in a mutual “auditioning process”[1].

David’s “dishonesty” of materials and forms is both disquieting and funny, elegant and grotesque: the study of human expression is associated to informal, crusty like effects, brown paper is folded into a curled up body, jesmonite, bronze, glass, wood, copper are freely adopted and disguised. Graphite, rust or pigment cover the sculptures like skin, reminiscent of the compulsive need to draw, a constant primary element of David’s work. In ‘Prodigious Apparatus 2015’ tubes of copper are completely masked by a coat of graphite and form a grid which entraps a central a figure crowned with corals. This is the only sculpture in the room that appears not to lean or structurally rely upon something else. On the contrary, positioned in diagonal on a side of the room, it is a point of convergence, a “prodigious apparatus” that burns and gives life, sucks in and spits out, connects and separates. Amongst all of the diagonals in the room, it is also a decentered vanishing point, a portal to yet another transformation, one that we are not able to see, but can perceive as potentiality, as an unbounded “congregation of winds”[2].

[1] David refers to his sculptures in these terms, in an interview with Jonathan Miles, in Jonathan Miles and Mario Diacono Enrico “La Caduta David”, catalogue of the exhibition, Collezione Maramotti, Silvana Editore, Bologna 2015, pg. 7

[2] Ibid, pg.10