Bibi Davidson Creates New Landscapes
Matter Studio Gallery, Los Angeles
Through October 2, 2022
Written by Genie Davis
Shaping new realms that both literally and figuratively add to her dark fairy tale approach and sensibility, Bibi Davidson paints a fresh imaginative world in Imaginary Matter. Her solo exhibition at Matter Studio Gallery in mid-city gives viewers flora and fauna as well as her often depicted figures of rabbit and girl. Even those recurring images are placed in new and different contexts than in past work.
Among the most beautiful is an entirely-Davidson depiction of “My Lost Tree.” This is no ordinary forest resident. Lush green leaves spread, reminiscent of jungle plants and palms, elm, birch, and the mythical “tree of life.” It appears as a vast canopy with some leaves bearing glowing red and gold veins. The trunk is an equally gem-like mix of chocolate brown and dark yellow. The tree stands in what appears to be a pool of translucent aquamarine water, the sandy colored ground beneath the water is cracked and bisected with rivulets of aqua liquid or shimmers cast by the sun. The image is strikingly potent, comforting and yet out of reach, not just to the artist, but to humankind, ever on the search for safety and redemption.
“In the Mood for an Apple” offers a similar tree and watery ground beneath it, but here the focus is on a pyramid of round green apples that appear to be almost levitating next to it.
In “Behind a Leaf,” a comfortably seated nude girl conceals herself behind light-filled foliage, the sky aqua behind the leaves, the grass a cross between olive and emerald beneath her. Her outward gaze is watchful, perhaps worried. This is a place of refuge or hiding or comfort, but how long will she be able to stay “Behind A Leaf” appears to be in question.
Lack of refuge is certainly one outcome that Davidson appears to posit in a smaller work, “All Around Me,” in which a young woman is engulfed beyond her chin in a swirling green torrent of water. “Let Me In” has an equal sense of needed succor in a different setting: a ghostly reddish bird with intense eyes peers through a window, desiring entry.
In “Carried Away,” another larger work, the artist uses both acrylic paint and 3D elements on wood. Here, a female figure is overtaken by a tight wreathe of vine and leaf. Whether she is subsumed by nature rather than finding refuge in it or has fused with it in the process of metamorphic change, is up to the viewer. “Lady Tree,” created with similar mediums, reveals leaves and branches shaped into or shaped over a mysteriously feminine form.
“The Fugitive” is hiding from something unknown in a broken-down house, through the tiles of which a leafless, Tim Burtonesque tree has sprung. She has or is wearing a bird head, whether it is her own that she is “growing” or a disguise we can only guess, just as whether she is hiding from the outside world or from that ominously sinuous tree is up for conjecture. Either way, the work is a startling and involving narrative as disquieting as it is beautifully balanced between tree, broken roof and parquet floor with squares and shafts of light upon it.
The artist’s use of light is lovely and prominent in many works here. “Seeing the Light” (48 x 36) gives us two unclad women in chairs, one with her back turned, one facing front softly out of focus, sunlight forming squares on brick walls and floors beside and below them. The duality and relaxed body language of the two subjects speaks of ease and an effortless, literal enlightenment.
Although also suffused in light, “Solitary” has an aching loneliness befitting the title, as a woman sits naked against a wall at the top of a set of stairs. Light streams through a window at the top of the landing and casts a small shadow of her behind her; creating an animalistic face like pattern on the sill. She appears to be staring at the opposite wall, not out the window or into the light.
In “Windy Day,” Davidson gives us three women with their upper bodies concealed behind strangely other-planetary trees. Each is wearing a long, loose red garment buttoned from behind and opened to the top of the thigh, allowing the titular wind to sail their skirts out behind them. If they are bird-like – dresses resembling tail feathers – then they are in process of becoming like the young woman in “The Bird in Me,” who is transformed into a bird, all multicolored feathers except for her human legs and shoes. Trailing her are two smaller birds – reminiscent of the Twitter emblem, on their bodies.
As delicate and perfect as a leaf, as giddy with hidden meaning and soaring metaphor as her birds, Davidson continues to delight in this exhibition’s mystery-tinged visual narrative, making magical use of her uniquely recognizable color palette. Branch by branch, we follow her path through a forest of voluptuous imagination.
The exhibition closed October 2nd, but it is viewable online here.