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David Grant: Newspace, Los Angeles, California
Christopher Miles

David Grant, Extrude #136, 1996

Like enduring sex symbols, David Grant's sculptures carry with them a confidence that whatever cannot be hewn, honed or toned, nonetheless can be scrunched, puffed or ratcheted into presentable, even provocative shape. All one needs is well-structured foundation, carefully placed stuffing and a facility for pushing materials to their button-popping brink.

Most of Grant's voluptuous creations involve sturdy, though delicately crafted, steel armatures sheathed with taut leather, vinyl, and vari-colored fabric. The more bulging forms are often achieved by filling the skins with a liquid foam to the point where seams pucker and the foam material oozes between the stitching (overzealous use of the foam, which expands dramatically as it cures, has actually resulted in gooey explosions in Grant's studio). The results of Grant's efforts are objects embodying a curious bridging between Formalist sculpture, toys (both children's and adults'), finish fetish, fetish fashion, natural forms (Adam and Eve included), and architectural/engineering feats ranging from hoop skirts to high rises.

extrude, a corkscrewy yellow protrusion with a pink and blue beach-ball-striped head, comes equipped with an obvious phallic reference. The allusion might seem a bit dull, and indeed sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar, though with much of Grant's work the sometimes-cigar possibility rates about a snowball's chance in a hothouse. Grant manages to move beyond the ease of dildo shock, however, by giving the work other places to point to--from novelty condoms to lollipops to a child's Sit 'N' Spin toy to Tatlin's architecture.

Other works in the exhibition tow a similar trolling line, hooking a variety of overlapping and entangling references. shoeshine v, a chain of dangling, bulbous forms, suggests a bootlegger's still, Willy Wonka's chemistry set, organic growth, the birth of an unearthly thing, or fluid dripping from a feeder, all possibilities tweaked by the piece's vinyl and leather-clad exterior. divine ascending falls somewhere between a classical torso and Morticia Adams run over by a train, all wrapped up in pink lace. the oracle, a work modeled formally after parts of the inner ear, refers also to a range of natural forms including a conch shell. The shell reference is precisely appropriate, as ethereal music drifts from the orifice of the piece when it is raised to one's ear.

Grant's work ultimately seems to hinge on the relationship, whether formal, sensual or cultural, between substance and appearance. In short, Grant is making physical objects that address issues of illusion. Not unlike the weakling who bulks up with a down parka or the rotund figure that finds hourglass form with the help of a corset, Grant's sculptures are defined by their shells and skins, leaving viewers to guess what could, would or does fill out their casings. Grant's work suggests that in art and in the broader world, skin-deep might well reach all the way to the core.

Christopher Miles

Los Angeles, California

1997

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