David Flaugher, a versatile artist who’s just as comfortable with painting as he is with creating installation and assemblage art, has recently opened a solo exhibition at And Now gallery in the Dallas Design District. His work has been seen on an international level in a long list of venues since he earned his MFA degree in 2013 from New York University.
In the five pieces that make up this exhibition, three paintings of snowmen and two free-standing sculptures assembled with found objects (all executed in 2020), visitors can easily walk into the themes and ideas that Flaugher has grappled with in his work for several years. Notable among them is the tension between the beauty and pathos found, and revealed through, the precarity and ephemerality of existence that comes about through the inevitability of change.
Flaugher lives and works in the Detroit area, where family ties led to his particular perspective on the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. This catastrophic episode helped to form his view about the boom-bust cycle of capitalism — a cycle that used to take generations that now seems to repeat itself in around a decade, a reflection of the sped-up nature of a globally connected world.
For a hint of irony, Flaugher evokes the joy of Christmas, as referenced through his large, almost abstract paintings of white snowmen, as well as in the sculptures, each formed by a cast-iron trellis with LED lights that represent snowflakes.
“The snowman is obviously an icon of impermanence, an icon of material precarity,” Flaugher says.
Alternately, in terms of life, these fragile figures become a metaphor addressing “our sense of self.”
The snowmen will ultimately melt away, symbolizing a sense of loss. What’s lost could be an array of things ranging from social status, money or even white privilege, considering that snowmen are white. For Flaugher, this process presents an opportunity to seize upon a moment of “bliss” that reveals itself as things change and the cycle continues. This fluidity captures the beauty of life, however bleak or challenging, helping us to let go of our ties to material possessions, as well as an element of our sense of self that may not really define who we are anymore.
In the sculptures, both untitled, the trellis structure, a found object in art speak, is a common household item meant to display potted plants. Flaugher intentionally leaves them empty, a barren presentation that suggests scarcity. This is similar to the sad state of the bare Christmas trees in the animated film How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where emptiness gave way to hope as the narrative progressed, offering a lesson about forgiveness and the true nature of joy.
The snowman paintings are surprising and mysterious; you can completely miss the impact if you view them virtually online instead of in the gallery space. In the snowman Untitled (Horizontal Portrait), monochromatic painterly phrases in white form the face as a type of ground, onto which are overlaid three black spots for the eyes and nose, and an upper portion as a sort of hat that exits the picture plane above.
Without the textual reference of “snowman,” you might easily be convinced that you’re looking at an abstract painting, a perfect example of the complexity of the work in this exhibition — multivalent, approachable and readily entered through a number of pathways.
David Flaugher’s exhibition runs through Oct. 17 at And Now gallery, 150 Manufacturing St., Suite 101, in the Dallas Design District. Open Wednesday through Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m., and by appointment. For details, call 214-205-9909 or visit andnow.biz.