A Boat Made Out of Ocean

19 May 2023 – 25 Jun 2023

Regular hours

13:00 – 18:00
13:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Free admission

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M. David & Co. is pleased to announce "A Boat Made out of Ocean", an exhibition curated by Michael David.

Featuring works by Jim Condron, Deborah Dancy, Astrid Dick, Fox Hysen, Mike Olin, Ben Pritchard, Mason Saltarrelli, John Walker, and Carolyn Wenning


A Boat Made Out of Ocean: Expressions of Openness 

Exhibition essay by Paul D’Agostino

Featuring works by nine artists whose practices comprise painting, collage, assemblage, and sculpture, A Boat Made Out of Ocean explores the notion that sincere acts of artistic creation are pathways for, and conduits of, self-expression. This has long been a crucial concern for curator Michael David. The conceit is that creative acts, if sufficiently rigorous and genuine, are means for communicative openness and manifestations of mirrored selves.

To that end, the artworks gathered in A Boat Made Out of Ocean are intended to demonstrate that what you make is, on some level, who you are – that some sense of an artist’s identity lingers on in the works that resonate with greatest truth. This is an ambiguous enough proposition, to be sure, yet it is one that might be readily evidenced, throughout a range of media, by such things as consistency in or trademark uses of materials, subject matter, palette, compositional arrangements, spatial considerations, certain manners of mark-making, linework, brushwork, and surface treatments, among other formal or process-related concerns. As the creative act ensues, as the work’s presence accrues, so too does its inherent communicative potential, its remnant utterances and latent expressions waiting to be sensed, seen, heard, read, or otherwise discovered by viewers. 

Mark-making and, perhaps in an even more specific sense, mark-processing are of paramount importance for several of the painters in the show. Deborah Dancy’s recent works, for instance, subdued in palette yet abuzz with compositional dynamism and gesturally compelling linework, are showcases of the artist’s multivalently layered and elegantly labored, though not laborious, marks, such that even the size and type of paintbrush might well be identified in a way that registers, too, the remnant presence of the artist. Dancy’s works rustle quietly with intimations of nature and hum subtly the bustle of the world. The artist, too, is in the midst there, somewhere. Astrid Dick explores similar registers of gestural compulsion and formal dynamics through nuanced layerings, potent chromatics, cultivated textures, and brushy continuities. The artist creates surfaces that are active, excited, oscillating with swaths of vibrant hues and variant marks that are now freely fluid, now starkly linear, now short and abrupt, intermittent, interruptive. Dick’s works question compositional structures and art historical strictures while beckoning viewers to navigate colorfully seductive, formally alluring, mark-forward painterly trajectories. The artist’s seas of abstraction aren’t always calm, but sailing them is a rewarding pursuit.  

Alongside mark-making, facture itself, by way of both pronounced materiality and transmissive aspect, occupies a place of particular procedural primacy for a couple other painters in A Boat Made Out of Ocean. Fox Hysen’s new works, for instance, grant crucial agency to marks and textures alike. Briskly brushy, hatched strokes create vicissitudes of depth and density, mood and complexity, abstracted apparitions, and ranges of compositional energies. Forms might appear almost recognizably as marks mount and strokes dart about, yet an overall vision of facture, of enduring textural stamp, is readily apparent in Hysen’s paintings, picture planes of fluctuating visions. In Ben Pritchard’s works, facture becomes even more pronounced, visually and conceptually, as both a matter of surface quality and a chronological imperative. For Pritchard, time, patience, prolonged looking, and assiduous reworking are of such essential importance that even these presumably impalpable characteristics become visible in the artist’s viscously restive surfaces, where considerable toil, deep reflection, and formal curiosity resolve as unforeseeably novel formal unities. The works are less about energy and dynamics, rather more attuned to chronological strata and palimpsestic depths.

Other painters in the show might disclose hints of personal identity through certain subject matter, forms of figuration or abstraction, or generous material admixtures. Variable vessels, tidal formations, wavy textures, curvy linework, bodies of water, and vast, profoundly rich expanses of blue – deep ceruleans and bright ultramarines aplenty – are at play in John Walker’s recent, rather formally suggestive works, a number of which register as singular episodes of an expansive story told collectively, as verses and stanzas extracted from epic poetry. Mike Olin’s mixed-media paintings, meanwhile, also imbued with prodigious narrative aspects, offer deep skies, distant horizons, mysterious organic elements, atmospheric nuances, and figurative figments, all embedded in or carried along by intriguing surfaces enriched with chromatic saturations and drips, and select bits of graphically crisp collage. Olin’s settings brim with strangeness and estrangement, yet they fall just shy of unsettling, channeling instead transmissions of mysterious merriment. While Mason Saltarrelli shares Walker’s and Olin’s interest in variably robust, somewhat saturated chromatic treatments, this artist creates surfaces that are far lighter, airier, and more open, with large areas of raw or sparely treated canvas left exposed, its visible textures exploited for compositional purposes or as formal presences. Saltarrelli deploys cleverly these light touches and airy flourishes as thematic analogues as well, as the artist’s operative subject matter is often musically inspired, with chromatically punchy, loosely gestural forms seeming to dance in step with beats, hooks, bass licks, and snare snaps, all grooving about and reveling in spheres of colorful acoustics. 

Carolyn Wenning and Jim Condron furnish A Boat Made Out of Ocean with materially exploratory, delightfully bricolage sculptural objects. Condron quotes literature in works mounting unlikely combinations of wood scraps, plastics, and other everyday materials in ways that resound with unseemliness, humor, and quirky tragicomedy. Generally quite colorful, Condron’s sculptures present as bizarre toys, teetering structures, weird relics, and improvised vehicles, among other curiously fun things, all the while seeming to somehow reflect back on themselves as three-dimensional puns. Of a much quieter mood, Wenning’s recent works are perhaps not proper sculptures, rather sculptural paintings and assemblage composites incorporating reclaimed chunks of wood, bingo cards, embossed ceiling panels, and other types of bric-a-brac that are then pieced together in simple ways, maybe in just a handful of pieces or procedural steps. These pieces, often quite textured and partially shaped, sometimes also slightly colored, prior to modification, are then painted with limited palettes of white, red, black, and pink, and incorporate various abstract forms suggestive, at times, of figuration. Through their differently emotive works, Condron and Wenning alike convey something about humor and humility, inventiveness and curiosity, pragmatism and creative resourcefulness, endurance and resilience.

Curator Michael David believes that through their featured works, the artists in A Boat Made Out of Ocean divulge palpable equivalences between the materials and processes they choose, and their individual senses of artistic identity – identities that are now modestly, now unreservedly conveyed to attentive viewers. This idea suggests a continuum of self-renewing, self-affirming significance between artist and audience. Meaning and expressivity are indeed bound up in the material stuff of the artworks, yet they’re contained in states of active conveyance, leaving the works alluringly open-ended, interpretable, indexical, porous. In the context of this exhibition, each instance of expressive openness beckons viewers to swim out to the metaphorical boat that is one with the ocean, climb aboard, take a seat, look off to the horizon, and settle in for a multisensory ride – attuned to the sounds of the sea, adrift with the breeze and the tides.  

Paul D’Agostino, PhD is an artist, writer, curator, and translator.

What to expect? Toggle


Michael David

Exhibiting artistsToggle

Jim Condron

Carolyn Wenning

John Walker

Mason Saltarrelli

Ben Pritchard

Mike Olin

Fox Hysen

Astrid Dick

Deborah Dancy


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