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David Simon
at the Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California
Recommendation by Shirle Gottlieb/Kathy Zimmerer

David Simon, 'The Lookout,' 1998, forton, 31 x 10 x 19'.

It's a long way from 'Der Freischutz' (an ancient German folktale), through Carl Maria von Weber's 19th-century opera of the same name and Goethe's classic play 'Faust,' to 'The Black Rider,' the contemporary, multi-media version of the story by William Burroughs that was then put to music by Tom Waits, and staged by Robert Wilson. Like millions of people before him, Los Angeles artist David Simon was completely captivated by this legendary dark tale: The downfall of a troubled young man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for love. Installed in a dark, barely lit maze which emulates the German black forest or a stage set, the 20 sculptures that comprise “Dark Forest” are loosely inspired by characters in 'The Black Rider.' With names like 'The Watchman,' 'The Banjo Player,' 'The Ditchdigger,' and 'The Butterfly Hunter,' these gray, traumatized, mostly nude figures are so realistic in physical detail you can count their ribs and muscles. Created from bronze and Forton (a durable mixture of resin, gypsum cement, and powdered pigment), then augmented by bits of glass, steel, and wood, each figure has an air of quiet desperation.  Several of these eerie sentinels wear a leather executioner’s hood, one man holds up a banjo, another woman holds butterfly nets. Their faces are devoid of emotion yet an undercurrent of tragedy is readily felt in their despairing poses. They are convincingly and dramatically articulated, yet there is a certain disconnect; the figures remain isolated and static. 

Published courtesy of ArtScene

Long Beach Museum of Art

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