“TOPSIDER” The Incomparable Work of David Bates
I cleaned out my closet last week. I had some professional help because someone has to be accountable for how I “turn out”. Rest assured, I purged some outdated trends and several fashion “NOs”. My coach, Barbara Burns was pretty dispassionate about some of my peasant blouses and oversized sweaters. She really cares.
When it comes right down to it, “classics” like my LBD (little black dress) or my nude patent pumps, really are just that, “classic”.
Unfortunately, art has its own versions of trends and some have more staying power than others. In the case of David Bates, his works are truly “investment” pieces. I absolutely love this recent article from D Magazine, and have included a snippet for your enjoyment. I encourage you to read it in its entirety so you can learn more about this American Master.
FROM D MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 2014 Bates embraces his sense of place, his position on the outside. And yet he’s bemused that there is a place inside and outside art in the first place. How is it, he wonders, that the South can be loved for so many of its cultural contributions, but art, somehow, doesn’t have a place in that conversation? “It’s always been interesting to me in the South,” he says. “They have such a culture of writers, food, music, jazz, blues—all of it comes from down there. All of that stuff is so sophisticated, and so where’s the visual art team? Well, we all picked up and moved to New York because we didn’t want to sit around here and be losers.” The South resonates in Bates’ work, in its subjects and settings, in its charm, wit, humor, and narrative. The paintings take up subjects with similar sensitivity of folk ballads and blues songs, Faulkner novels and Horton Foote plays. It is precisely this affinity with the narrative of Southern culture that plays into Bates’ status as a semioutsider. “The New York Times will review cooking from Louisiana, and they love going down and hearing some jazz, and will review music from Nashville, Austin,” he says, and then takes up a haughty voice of an imaginary editor. “But when it comes to ballet, symphony, or the fine arts, that’s where we stop. Now, y’all don’t know shit about that. Making ribs, whatever. But painting, dance. If you’re serious about that, you need to bring it up here. You can join the big leagues or quit. And you go, ‘Really?’ ” Bates takes a rare pause, and then he laughs. He knows what he has done. We’re sitting surrounded by work that will soon decorate the walls of two museums. We’re flipping through a catalog that spans a career that has taken him into swamps and shrimp boats, museums and biennale pavilions alike. He had to fight through dismissiveness and ambivalence. But in the end, David Bates challenged conventional wisdom and won. Do you need to bring it up to the big leagues? Really? What big leagues are you talking about? “I know it sounds like a loser from the flyover area, but every decade it seems a little bit more makeable,” he says, “that some guy can not show up to the party and say, ‘I’m going to have my own fucking party.’ ”
Artist representation: Talley Dunn Gallery
Exhibit of David Bates Sculptures: Nasher Sculpture Center
Wardrobe Consultant: Barbara Burns: (Tina Adams Wardrobe Consulting)
I wasn’t born in the south but I was smart enough to see my error over 30 years ago- this is STUNNING work- thank you!
Thank you for this post. And the artist’s interview about the dismissive attitude toward Southern visual artists is thought-provoking. Will result in an interesting Sunday discussion for sure……