VIDEO: David Schorr at Mary Ryan Gallery

David Schorr examines the duality of language

Artist David Schorr talks about the influence language has on the formation of meaning in a given society and how the same, often futile, careless phrase can have a drastically different meaning in a different culture. A highly erudite man, a scholar and an avid traveler David Schorr draws inspiration for his work from a wide variety of literary, operatic and theatrical sources to name a few. His titles, like  A Sky Blue Life or Vorrei / Non Vorrei come from the Russian classic short stories (Maksim Gorky) and famous Italian operatic libretto (Don Giovanni). Here artist David Schorr talks about some of the works in the exhibition. Mr. Schorr also talks about his technique and how he brings his ideas to life. Interesting terms to look up after watching the interview: silverpoint, gouache.

Video interview transcript:

David Schorr: I’m David Schorr. I’m seated at the Mary Ryan Gallery on 26th street where Mary is holding an exhibition of my latest work “Apothecary – Storehouse”.

I like the way languages influence meanings: there are two bottles here that actually have the same label “Furtive Glances”. In French “furtive glances” seems to refer to cafe society looking to see who is sitting with whom, who is wearing what? The bottle above it is also “Furtive Glances” but in Serbo-Croatian. “Furtive glances” but in Serbo-Croatian, in a country that’s been torn by terrible communal politics, furtive glances could have deep  and dangerous political significance.

When I started this project I learned that the word “apothecary” meant storehouse from the Greek – Apoteke. And I thought, just like an old pharmacist would store [his] raw materials for making prescriptions in these bottles, each of us has a personal storehouse, so I changed the labels to shameful thoughts, happy memories – things we carry with us.

I had the bottle for months before I decided I wanted to do a drawing with the label “A Sky Blue Life” in Russian, because it’s a name of a story by [Maxim] Gorky about someone who wishes to be an individual in just one way. He lives on a street in a small town in Russia where all houses are gray but he wants to paint his sky blue. His neighbors persecuted him and drove him mad… a typically “happy” Russian story…

After I pose the bottle and light it, I block it in lightly in pencil, then, when I have its silhouette, I under-paint it in white and I paint over it in gouache, it allows the light from the white paint to come through and the bottle to sit in the space of the colored paper but also to pull light, the way colored light pulls light.

Then after the painting is all done I go in with silverpoint. I add a bit of bone meal to the white paint with which I under-paint to increase the calcium content of the white. In silverpoint you draw with pure silver wire and as the silver wire passes over the calcium-rich ground it oxidizes the ground, so rather than working with pencil where you’re actually laying pigment down onto the surface, silverpoint chemically changes the nature of the ground and it sits in the drawing, far more then the technique like pencil or pastel, which puts pigment on top of the ground.

Interview © galleryIntell Images courtesy of The Mary Ryan Gallery. Artwork © David Schorr