“…My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood/To say as I said then!”
The speaker is Cleopatra, but the words come from Shakespeare, who invented more words and phrases than any other English speaker. He intends his Egyptian queen to mean in her youth, when everything seemed to be going her way, but Americans more often use it to mean in the days of greatest power and influence. In the salad days of the encyclopedia, for example, a definition might come in the form of an imaginary landscape, for example a city in which all the great, iconic buildings were seen at once: the Empire State Building, the Sears Tower, the Woolworth Building, the Capital Records Building, and maybe the Salt Lake Temple. Or it might have been all the large mammals, lions and tigers and zebras (Oh My!).
Finding Hope Within the Pain, a large selection of the sculpture of the artist who calls himself Javicci, is currently showing in the side gallery at Bountiful Davis Art Center, which appropriately has the size and enclosure of a domestic dining room. There are a lot of them, and they each tend to be very busy, which gave the space the feeling of a high-end antique store, where objects crowd together and it can be challenging to separate visually. However, I saw it in the company of a man who makes props for motion pictures, and he seemed very much in his element as he sorted out, from among perhaps a hundred disparate elements, a triangle comprised of the Risen Christ, a much older crucifixion, and the Angel Moroni with his trumpet. For him, it was something he could imagine having been the perfect bit of decor in one of those films.
A bit of history might help illuminate the art of Javicci, a multi-media artist and designer who desires nothing less than that his ambitious works change the world and bring about peace and understanding. For tens of thousands of years, beginning in the earliest days of cave art, there were only two fundamental ways to create three-dimensional images. One was to take a piece of something like wood or stone and carve away what wasn’t wanted, until the copy or original object was left. The second was to take a malleable material, like clay or wax, and mold it into the desired form. In the years following World War I, however, the protean artistic genius Pablo Picasso, who a few years before had irrevocably transformed 2-D art by inventing Cubism, came up with the idea of taking two or more things and, rather than carving or molding them, sticking them together to make something new. Probably his first such piece involved taking the handle bars of a bicycle and having them welded to the metal seat, which became the face of a bull with his horns thrusting from its sides.
Of course no one who makes such a great breakthrough stands alone. It’s always like what happened in our own times, when suddenly everyone thought of, and desired to make personal computers, which led to tablets and smart phones and GPS and all the life-changing things that came along. Even as Picasso was inventing the assembly of sculpture, Marcel Duchamp was mounting a bicycle fork and front wheel upside-down on a wooden stool. Soon enough, everyone was assembling found and cast-off bits to make unprecedented objects. Flash forward a stunningly few years and we find Javicci, who cements together found figurines, some of which he suggests he 3-D prints himself, and various paints, plates, and patinas, both to unify the results and give them a desired look. In an atypical example, a high relief plaque titled “You Are My Friends, LGBTQ 3” (the number refers to this version: version 4 hangs nearby). Here he’s assembled a bunch of bas-relief figures of ordinary people in modern dress into a mold in which he’s cast multi-colored plastics, producing a wall that resembles a Rainbow Flag, which backs up another copy of the risen Christ referred to above.
The salad days of the encyclopedia are long gone. For that matter, most carving and molding is done now by computer-driven machines. Read the news and it will become clear that mundane drawing and writing are soon to be taken over my machines. Maybe all that remains to close the loop is to to invent machine readers and viewers. But these are the salad days of assemblage. The variety here ranges from a few figures, such as a “Cheshire Cat,” and friends, to wall reliefs and free-standing clusters of many dozens of figures. Here they seem chosen almost by whim, and brought together to show off the sheer range of living creatures on this planet, along with some of the things people have created to share their space, like crowns, costumes, and other wearable status symbols, buildings to house them, and aircraft to give their best views. Or, given the presence of at least one bomber, to destroy almost as quickly as we create. You get the impression that nothing is too strange to grace a spot where it can be contemplated and admired, but neither is it accidental. If he can find an image of it, or make one, Javicci will find a context that surprisingly or flawlessly befits it.
Finding Hope Within the Pain, Bountiful Davis Art Center, Bountiful, through Feb. 25