– Spring 2009

Enrico David: Publicly, Privately

Melissa Gronlund

Enrico David, Musical Moment, 2006

When you look at a doll, you don't notice its particularities. Rather, you see it in a general way as 'human' [...]If you were to see the doll as an exact model of a figure, as a portrait statue, empathy would be impossible - it would be seen as a monstrosity.
- Mike Kelley1

Enrico David's work shows hosts of figures: grotesque heads made of papier-mâché, bulbous figural sculptures, collapsed dolls of paper or cloth, menacing harlequins on canvas and in gouache. They often are arranged in theatrical installations that draw on psychological fears and childhood memories or simply perform sly naughty puns - like a private joke told in the middle of a party, or a nickname used in a radio show. The different roles of the public and private are a key issue in David's work, which investigates the convention that these two registers remain separate in the genesis and reception of artwork - testing, refuting and spoofing this notion through what he calls the works' 'contradictory meanings'. Within this ground of contention, the use of the figure emerges as one of the more open areas of his practice, floating midway between the particular and the general. Much more extremely than Mike Kelley's notion of the doll as a 'general' human, David pushes his figures beyond non-specificity and almost all the way into

  1. Mike Kelley, Minor Histories: Statements, Conversations, Proposals (ed. John C. Welchman), Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2004, p.53.

  2. 'Suspended Attention', interview between Alexis Vaillant and Enrico David, Metropolis M, no.5, October/November 2006, p.89.

  3. Press material supplied by Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne, for the exhibition 'Bulbous Marauders', March 2008.

  4. Enrico David in a talk at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, Oslo, on 7 May 2008.