In her new exhibit “Alone In This Together,” now on view at the M. David and Co. Gallery, painter Mary DeVincentis conveys the heightened sense of mortality that has resonated throughout the past year of the pandemic. Using mixed media, ranging from flashe paint to plastic skeletons, DeVincentis creates poignant narratives drawn from moments fraught with connection, dark humor and hope.
DeVincentis’ previous pandemic inspired works “Nowhere To Run To,” exhibited online at M. David and Co’s Artsy viewing room, speculates on the crippling disorientations felt at the start of quarantine. However, the language of these 15 more recent works confers a new kind of perspective, as contradictory representations occur simultaneously throughout the works: life and death, despair and hope, isolation and solidarity.
The diptych “Through the Boneyard,” whose wood panels together measure five feet wide, introduces a dark, descending nebulous form whose size is accentuated by the scale of two anthropomorphic, winged figures — perhaps versions of DeVincentis herself. The sense that the formation is in transition, rather than floating, is achieved through weaving sets of etched lines throughout the built up canvas. The matte black form, made even more formidable by the artist’s use of crackle paste and toy skeletons, extends diagonally down from the painting’s upper left quadrant and emerges onto its partnering panel, suggesting a transition of form and perspective.
“Giving Up A Ghost” allows a contemplation on aging of the human form, which is employed through the literal physicality of the painter’s hair. The fleshy pink edge of the canvas, in which DeVincentis embeds nests of her hair in red spheres of oil paint, acts as the artist’s signature, if not an intimate look into the artist’s psyche. A pallid figure is seen curled up and expels a cloud filled with varying sizes of the word “me” that overtakes a monochromatic disarray of brushstrokes, while dappled reds bleeding through white strokes hint at the frenzy of death witnessed during the pandemic.
“‘Giving Up A Ghost’ is another euphemism for dying, but I wanted to go deeper and make it more personal,” DeVincentis said. “I thought of giving up the me and the ego, the demons.”
Other paintings are more literal in their storytelling. In the painting “Looking Up,” DeVincentis depicts one of her own experiences with life and death; she is seen looking up at the sky and flourishing trees around her as she stands in Greenwood Cemetery. The painter then plays on the dual existence of life and death in her painting “The Gardner,” a vision of a dying, bare creature planting seeds.
The titular and largest piece, “Alone In This Together,” is the most minimal in contrast to the rest of the works and is essentially unfinished. Broad brushstrokes strike down upon a solitary, minute figure. A sense of space, which can be seen formally and narratively, is created as a vibrant teal orb emerges onto the canvas. The landscape is a dreamlike, if not hallucinatory, rendition of light and dark, as the background is an abstraction of impending darkness or vice versa.
The works speak to our collective consciousness as we all confront physical and emotional isolation, and it was in this spirit that DeVincentis invited 14 other artists to exhibit alongside her. Some works are straightforward and figurative, while others are entirely abstract using clay or mixed media. As the exhibit unfolds, it is evident that while the works are deeply personal, the themes are universal and allow the viewer to feel connected by the palpable presence of mortality.
“Alone In This Together” is on view through November 6, 2021. DeVincentis is represented by M. David and Co. in New York and Gibbons and Nicholas in Dublin, Ireland. Her previous exhibits include “Out There” at M. David and Co. in 2019 and “Dwellers on the Threshold” at David and Schweitzer Contemporary in 2018.
All photos: Vanessa Hock unless specified otherwise.
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