Artist and musician David Byrne rarely stays in the same conceptual space for long, moving from recorded music to sculpture, painting and drawing to film. The longtime frontman of the Talking Heads, and a vital force in the history of downtown New York’s art scene from the 1970’s to today, it’s hard to find a mode of work he hasn’t tried at least once. This vision finds a fitting home at Pace Gallery this month for How I Learned About Non-Rational Logic a show of work from the artist’s dingbats series of drawings made during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of his tree drawings from the early 2000s, and a selection of his drawings of chairs from 2004–07.
The drawings in Pace’s presentation shed light on Byrne’s distinct formal style and expansive visual arts practice. Throughout his five-decade-long career, Byrne has nurtured a fine arts practice spanning drawing, photography, installation, performance, and design, and this show follows a 2020 exhibition with Pace showing a set of 50 dingbats drawings produced during quarantine. Works in his dingbats series grapple with the attendant boredom, anxiety, and loneliness of quarantine as well as the inequities and injustices highlighted by the pandemic. The dingbats are Byrne’s response to these conditions—an imaginative way of expressing hope, desire for connection, and the power of community.
Byrne often imbues his drawings with surreal, and here that same sense of play and humor dominates the work. In his drawings, the works rely on scale and allusion to create subtle jokes and plays on the image itself. In one work, Immersive, the image depicts a human figure in between a pair of monstrous headphones, playing on the idea of a massive soundsystem, abstracted by the user, but still creating an enormous soundscape. These simple details, compounded by the artist’s rendition, create a perfect negotiation of tension and relief that underscore their creation during the stressful past few years in isolation.
– D. Creahan
Pace Gallery [Exhibition Site]