Within an artist’s large survey exhibition, there is the expectation of a wide variety of stylistic development and perhaps a variance of medium, scale, or evolution in technical ability. However, for an artist as media-variant as Enrico David (Italian, b. Ancona,1966), these observations may be more subtle to anyone not intimately familiar with his practice. For David, variance and transformation are key elements in his work, and his stylistic and technical approaches are constantly shifting, moulding, and augmenting. David is known for working comfortably across a diverse array of mediums; from sculpture, painting, installation, and works on paper, he works with flexibility and range, making his practice difficult to define categorically.

Enrico David
Untitled, 2011
acrylic on canvas

In his current solo exhibition, Enrico David: Gradations of Slow Release, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC is presenting the largest US museum survey of David’s work to date. The exhibition has over twenty years of material on display,  demonstrating how David’s career has spanned a variety of perspectives on the human form and abstracted representations of the embodiment of lived experience. While his sculptures and works on paper are often more anthropomorphic, his paintings lean towards the abstract, the colours more visceral, flesh-like, or bodily, in a style that diverts from the physical form itself, and focuses instead on the painterly palette of the body; the tonalities, textures, and striations of corporeality. David’s large-scale painting, Untitled, 2011, presents a patchwork of pink and black musculature, each square section a swatch of oppositional brushwork, the result a dizzying melange of striated lines and deviations. The colossal work is over nine feet tall, a shear wall of flesh-toned strokes, a scale not common in David’s other sculptural works.

“My works allude to the mystery of human relationships…to accept that mystery and to live with it is an idea we tend to discard because it is complex and problematic…”

-Enrico David, opening day of Fault Work at Sharjah Art Foundation

As with many of his works, Untitled demonstrates David’s approach to the human form that bridges concepts of interiority and disembodiment, inasmuch as its textural, painterly aspects bring a sense of physicality to the work. Although it is a two-dimensional work, the painting appears to have a corporeal depth, a thick, muscular-like weight, as if sewn into the canvas itself.

Enrico David: Gradations of Slow Release, is on view at the Hirshhorn Museum until September 2, 2019.

Written by Whitney Brennan