Sam Messenger – 13 Cycles

Davidson Contemporary

Feb. 25, 2024 - Apr. 9, 2016

521 W 26th St
New York, 10001

Davidson Contemporary is proud to present 13 Cycles, by Sam Messenger. This exhibition of new works on paper is an uncommon departure from Messenger’s predominantly black and white palette. The series is titled Nimbus and is manifold in meaning. Nimbus refers to specific art historical religious iconography, environmental phenomena, mathematics, and the fundamentals of art and process.

In religious art and iconography, halos appear as circles above figures’ heads. The halo (or ‘nimbus’) signifies to the viewer that the person or figure is sainted or otherwise supernatural. To some extent, Messenger’s work assumes that quality. These works, using only straight lines, create the illusion of circles and pulsating halos within the drawings and allude to Messenger’s longstanding interest in compass-and-straightedge construction – a classical, idealized form of mathematical drawing.

Davidson Contemporary

That link between the ordered, rules-based, and geometrical and the supernatural or religious is perhaps the perfect confluence of thoughts to experience Messenger’s work. The rigorous, even arduous nature of Messenger’s process could be described as monastic; Messenger created this particular show in a matter of weeks, working extended hours as he works painstakingly measured and applied each line. The appearance or resolution of circular haloes from the field of static straight lines could be considered supernatural were it not for the artist’s own dedication to the regulatory mathematics behind it.

Messenger’s work is simultaneously a force of nature and a work of art, with the viewers’ eyes and minds moving every which way to make sense of the imagery and execution within each work. Like rain breaking the surface of water, ripples combine with falling lines, and randomness occurs despite the artist’s best intentions. The Nimbus works use clear and simple rules, materials and colors. They are made in a way that allows the process, hand, and error to be easily understood. Messenger revels in the inconsistencies, chance occurrences, and ragged edges. These works are not made by machine, nor by the supernatural, and are not intended as ‘graphic’ or process-driven art but abstract works that can contain whatever the viewer brings to them.


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