Sunday, July 27th, 2014

“Leave Me All On Fire”: David Brody at the Boiler

David Brody: 8 Ecstasies at the Boiler (Pierogi)
May 16 to July 6, 2014
191 North 14th Street (between Wythe and Nassau avenues)
Brooklyn, 718 599 2144


David Brody, 8 Ecstasies, 2014.  HD computer animated film, 11 minutes. Still. Courtesy of Pierogi
David Brody, 8 Ecstasies, 2014. HD computer animated film, 11 minutes. Still. Courtesy of Pierogi

When I went to David Brody’s show at the Boiler — the project space of Pierogi Gallery — I was at first nonplussed. Things would have been clearer if I had read the quote at the beginning of the projected animation, the main feature of his installation, which is taken from St. Teresa of Ávila: “I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at times into my heart, and did pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and leave me all on fire with the love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it.”

My first impression was one of annoyance at how flat the piece looked compared to other 3D animations of Brody’s that I had seen, and that the yellow was too light to indicate shadows.

But as the deep breathing at the beginning of the film took its effect, relaxing my body into a meditative state, I soon saw this animation as absolutely flat and yet three-dimensional at the same time. I marveled at how Brody could stride that tightrope with such assuredness. “In the animation 8 Ecstasies,” he writes, “two longstanding pipe dreams of mine came together: making a moving drawing, and pushing uncanny correspondences between sound and image as far as possible.”

The soundtrack established itself right away as something really original. The music, by experimental video artist Zig Gron, who also has Hollywood credits to his name as a music editor, including all three of The Matrix films, is a vital component of this piece. Gron’s soundtrack went seamlessly with Brody’s animation, articulating the way the flat lines and three-dimensional ridges separated. A very sudden and drastic shift in the ridges was accompanied by the sound of an earthquake. Gron sampled obscure tunes I did not know that added appropriately exuberant joy to 8 Ecstasies. I came away at the end with the impression that I had seen a masterpiece.

Installation shot of the exhibition under review with David Brody's untitled 2014 sculpture suspended from the ceiling.  Courtesy of Pierogi
Installation shot of the exhibition under review with David Brody’s untitled 2014 sculpture suspended from the ceiling. Courtesy of Pierogi.

Brody had met Gron when they were both students at CalArts in the 1980s. After viewing 8 Ecstasies I watched the time-lapse animation of his drawings; the animation was projected high up against a brick wall, while the drawings themselves were to be found in a foyer-like space at the Boiler’s entrance. Brody’s drawing constitutes a halfway mark between his paintings with their dense architectural allusions, on the one hand, and his straightedge renderings in black and white, to be found in his animations, on the other. There was something (ironically) unruly in the ruled lines and certainly the background was pure gesture. The time lapse of the drawing had the pure pleasure of ones I have seen of flowers speedily unfolding. I was fascinated to see how his drawings were made. (The drawings, printed in editions of 15, come on a thumb-drive of 8 Ecstasies inserted into their frame, as well as a video of that particular drawing being drawn.)

The untitled orange-red sculpture, a ziggurat construction suspended from the Boiler Room’s high ceiling veiled by draping swathes of bubble wrap, had an apparitional impact like seeing a ghost in a haunted house. I had never seen a sculpture by Brody before, and yet it immediately held the force of another masterpiece in his oeuvre. I should qualify this statement with the admission of not being especially devoted to his paintings, which hitherto has been his primary means of expression.

One other piece should be acknowledged as part of the production of this multi-media exhibition, the newsprint catalogue with a text by Nick Flynn titled [salvaged process notes for david brody’s 8 ecstasies]. Culled from Brody’s notes to 8 Ecstasies, Flynn’s piece reads as a stand-alone poem.