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Future Greats

By Jonathan T.D. Neil

March 2014



By all accounts, David Scanavino is enjoying a successful career trajectory, having exhibited his work consistently in solo and group exhibitions since graduating from Yale’s MFA programme in 2003. Museum recognition is growing. Both the Pulitzer Foundation in St Louis and the Aldrich Contemporary in Connecticut are showing his work this year. More press is soon to follow.

It’s understandable. Scanavino’s work is smart without sacrificing either aesthetics or impact. Linoleum, in all its many unappetizing colours, is a signature material, configured as wall and floor pieces. Heavy rope of various different configurations is cast in Ultracal. Pulped newspapers are applied directly to gallery walls, the taupe colours an aggregate of the papers’ print and photo inks. More recently, Scanavino has turned to coloured construction papers of the kind one finds in art classrooms, producing pieces that call to mind Ellsworth Kelly.

It would be foolish to attempt to understand any of Scanavino’s pieces apart from the rest, as each exhibition is often a fully considered work unto itself. What animates his arrangements is a concern with ‘imprinting’, manifested literally in the rope casts and finger- and thumbprints of the paper-pulp works as much as it is figuratively in the linoleum so common to the institutional environments – schools, libraries – that press on us with their authority.

That’s just a taste of what makes Scanavino’s work smart, but don’t underestimate its playfulness, which is the resource that Scanavino will be able to draw on for many shows to come.