By all accounts, David Scanavino is enjoying a successful career trajectory, having exhibited his work consistently in solo and group shows since graduating from Yale’s MFA program in 2003. Museum recognition is gaining. Both the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis and the Aldrich Contemporary in Connecticut are showing his work this year. More press is soon to follow.
It’s understandable. Scanavino’s work is smart without sacrificing either aesthetics or impact. Linoleum, in all of its many unappetizing colors, is a signature material, configured as wall and floor pieces. Heavy rope is cast in Ultracal of various different configurations. Pulped newspapers are applied directly to gallery walls, the taupe colors an aggregate of the papers’ print and photo inks. More recently, Scanavino has turned to colored construction papers of the kind one finds in art classrooms, producing pieces that will call to mind Ellsworth Kelly.
It would be foolish to attempt to understand any of Scanavino’s pieces apart from the rest, as each exhibition is often a fully considered work unto itself. What animates his arrangements is a concern with ‘imprinting’, manifested literally in the rope casts and finger and thumb prints of the paper-pulp works as much as it is figuratively in the linoleum so common to the institutional environments – schools, libraries, low-level municipal offices – that press on us with their authority.
That’s just a taste of what makes Scanavino’s work smart, but don’t underestimate its playfulness, which is the resource that Scanavino will be able to draw on for many exhibitions to come.
This article appeared in the March 2014 (‘Future Greats’) issue of ArtReview.