David Lynch Meets Fans at Gallery Reception


For two hours on a Friday evening, a long line was formed around a Manhattan Upper East Side block by people waiting to get into the Jack Tilton Gallery, where David Lynch's first solo art show in New York since 1989 is being shown. The exhibit has already been open since earlier this month on March 6, but Lynch himself made an appearance last night and interacted with patrons who were quite obviously mostly fans of Lynch's films than serious art enthusiasts, though that's to be expected.

The reception was a packed affair that made the art gallery look like a house party, especially with the amount of college-age kids who were present (more than a few from NYU's film school, I'm sure). The long line to get in must have been slightly unusual for it. Outside, the gallery's next door neighbor who was out for an evening jog seemed confounded by the ordeal. He asked me who David Lynch was and why he's so famous that people flocked outside his home.

For the entire duration of his stay, Lynch was surrounded by a constant stream of admirers looking for an autograph, a photo together, or even just a short conversation, which he gamely obliged with good spirits. I saw him give strangers hugs and autograph someone's face with a marker. Many came dressed to the nines, some in face paint, and one dude wore his Eraserhead t-shirt, which concert culture taught me is a faux pas.

In recent years, we've seen many big directors' work being displayed in museums as pieces of art (the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA a couple of years ago being a very popular one), but they tend to be retrospectives of their film work, with the exhibits focusing on concept art, storyboards, etc. that inform their cinematic outputs. David Lynch's show contains new paintings—created between 2009 and as recent as last month—that are looking for prospective buyers. Lynch is a man who dabbles in many things: film, television, animation, web series, commercials, music, weather report, coffee... but he started first as a painter attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a medium he returns to now and again. 

The exhibition is unmistakably Lynchian. Crude childlike drawings reminiscent of his animated series Dumbland are slobbered on with thick gobs of paint, causing them to pop out of their canvas, which are either coated in black paint or made of cardboard. Some of them are complimented by small objects like a matchbook, an AAA battery and colored lightbulbs. These paintings are huge and heavy—some filling up an entire wall—and are placed inside a glass box with gold Francis Bacon frames, giving them a diorama quality. They depict the same combination of childlike attitude, suburban musing, dry humor and surreal nightmare found in his movies. Accompanying the oddly captivating images are pithy one-liners that evoke such vivid drama: "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" and "Fisherman's dream w/ steam iron" are two standouts.

I've always said that Lynch's greatest asset as a pop surrealist is his sense of humor (would Twin Peaks' mystery be as watchable as it is without the hilarious characters?), and it's great seeing that transfered into a more static medium. A painting called Duckman's Injury, which had people speculating when Lynch mentioned it on his Twitter account last month, shows an anthropomorphic duck having his arm ripped off. I don't really understand why, but it is funny.

The David Lynch exhibit will be at the Tilton Gallery until April 14, and is open for public on Tuesday-Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for Artboiled.com.


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