Artists & Galleries

David Geiser Evokes Cave Paintings in ‘Art for Aid’ at Ross School

Haven’t seen the famous 17,000-year-old cave paintings at Lascaux in southwestern France? Not to fret. You can feast on images that invoke them in David Geiser’s impressive tactile, earth-toned abstracts that go on display Saturday, April 25.

Geiser calls his new series “Day Before Lascaux.” Part of a stellar show, Art for Aid, to benefit the food pantries of the Hamptons, Geiser’s paintings will be displayed in what exhibition organizer Wendy Wachtel calls a “glorious gallery space” downstairs at the Ross Tennis Pavilion.

Geiser’s new work not only references his earlier free-form parchment pieces, but evidences his continuing evolution in bringing together techniques and forms from genres he’s been exploring throughout his long and diverse career as an abstractionist, sculptor, satirical cartoonist and writer. The Lascaux pieces, suffused with sepia, umber and gold, are laminated, and additional parchment is applied along with more pigment layers, the whole creating a glowing effect. The artist fondly refers to the pieces as “shields” (his mother’s maiden name) and “skins.” He likes to work on different kinds of pieces at the same time, noting that he’s always surprised if not fascinated at how previous work can inform new work, a “cross fertilization” process that is essentially “intuitive.” One of the pieces in the new Lascaux, for example, contains a sly red reference to Geiser’s bizarre clown series, and another, one of the earliest of the new group, recalls his work as a caricaturist—elegantly simple, feathery black lines set against dark grey that suggests a primitive cave drawing—a fish skeleton or twigs, perhaps, embedded in clay.

Geiser seems never to be done. As he talks with a visitor, he instinctively picks up steel wool and starts sanding a black area, lightening it up a bit and giving it more dimensionality. He often also adds earth materials that strike his fancy, turning an oil painting into a collage. The process involves “pulling on paint, pulling it off, using brushes, rags, scrapers, building up a metabolism.” Thus, unlike his earlier “mandalas,” the new Lascaux have no apparent focal point or centered geometry. He likens their compositions to “fractals,” whereby patterns in small sections are replicated in the larger form. He also likes to apply shaved bark from the melaleuca tree, pressing its flat flexible thin sheets onto the shields along with organic sea moss or fungus. The final result may yield a rigid, highly textured free-form shape, generating a sense of a living, breathing environmental entity.

In addition to benefiting the Hamptons food pantries, Art for Aid is also designed to assist the Stephen Ross Scholarship Fund and ensure that the school continues its “incredible record of reaching out to the Hamptons marginalized diverse communities,” Wachtel says. The director of Walk Tall Gallery in Sag Harbor, Wachtel wears many hats, including that of assistant director of Meals on Wheels. Others in Art for Aid include the well-known landscape painter, Walter Us, a Sag Harbor resident; Daniel Simmons, who describes himself as a “Neo-African abstract expressionist” and is a philanthropist at Rush Foundation with his brother, Russell Simmons; the lyrical abstract painter Shari Abramson; and a handful of Ross School art faculty, among them Christopher Engel and Jennifer Cross.

Wachtel notes that Ross students will be on hand at the opening gala on April 25 and there will be a “star-studded audience.”

Art for Aid,  Saturday, April 25, 6–8 p.m. at the gallery inside the Ross School Tennis Pavilion, 18 Goodfriend Drive, East Hampton. To RSVP, call 631-681-1572.

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