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Glenn Herbert Davis: Whitewashing Value by Brian Hearn

Digital renderings of Glenn Herbert Davis’ installation at Living Arts show how the work builds on and fills the entire gallery space.

From his studio-shop in West Tulsa, the blue collar side of town known for refineries and railheads, Glenn Herbert Davis builds curious stuff. A bit like Tom Waits’ mysterious neighbor in “What’s He Building?” or like the carpenter whose skills shape the human experience from cradle to coffin, his work tests our assumptions about the built environment, making us wonder “what’s it for?” Davis demonstrates a rigorous reverence for materials, especially wood, down to the dinkiest bits of hardware. As a “trans-disciplinary maker” his practice encompasses sculpture, furniture, performance, photography, video, writing, and book making. Site-specific installation, however, is where Davis deftly engineers these practices into wholly original

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constructions. “What the hell is he building in there?” growls Waits. Encountering his large-scale architectural installations one senses something playful in their design while serious in both concept and construction. Built-in themes emerge from his work: the relationship between the human body (often his) and the omnipresent systems it is subject to, the dignity of physical labor, and subverted notions of utility/functionality. “I can tell you one thing - he’s not building a playhouse for the children. What’s he building in there?” This is building as performance. Value, his latest installation on view at Living Arts of Tulsa, marks yet another progression in his career. Davis explores and

critiques the idea of valuation as a cultural construct by creating all white work in an all-white gallery. Call it his White Album or his Moby-Dick. The materially intensive installation, fabricated almost entirely on site over two weeks, integrates the entirety of the gallery space from ductwork to structural pillars, transforming it into an immersive environment of life size forms, structures made of whitewashed wood frames skinned with polyethylene sheet plastic, and lit indirectly. Like polar bears in a snowstorm, the white forms blend into the white cubic gallery space, reducing our perceptions of it to a bodily, sensory experience. Familiar shapes of home, church, and entertainment morph into free standing or attached structures

Art Focus Oklahoma, January/February 2014  

2014 January/February Art Focus Oklahoma is a bimonthly publication of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition dedicated to stimulating insight i...