If geneticist Gregor Mendel had cross-bred pointillist Georges Seurat and minimalist Donald Judd in the garden of Edward Scissorhands, he may have developed something akin to the paintings in 'New Works,' David Lefkowitz's solo exhibition at Carrie Secrist Gallery in Chicago.
The show is comprised of paintings of unlikely topiary structures isolated like specimens on a ground of Baltic birch plywood. The images, representations of natural forms that have been manipulated to resemble representations of culture, come out of a desire to embody internal contradictions of our ambivalent stance toward nature. The work reiterates a theme that Lefkowtiz often returns to which is an interest in bringing into question the idea that the natural world and the world of human endeavors are separate and distinct realms of experience.
At first glance, these paintings suggest ostensibly natural forms, but their artifice is emphasized. Compositionally, they appear as single 'specimens' removed from their spatial context and isolated on a ground. Though painted by hand, they almost read as decals applied mechanically to the wood surface.
Calling these seemingly benign arboreal follies "cultivars", a term used to describe different genetic variations of a plant developed through science, implies human intervention at an earlier state than one might normally associate with topiary. Some may suggest practical use value, which is not feasible when these forms are composed of shrubs. A slide with a prickly/leafy surface is not conducive to slippery play. The permeability of a bush would make a fairly ineffective Cultivar. Others allude to natural forms that 'grow' in alternate ways- A Palm without fronds and an upside-down conifer (Inverted Pine). These play with assumptions about certain iconic symbols of nature.