Seeing Serial: David Beckley at Gallery 110
I loved artist David Beckley’s Drone from the first moment I saw it on my computer screen several weeks ago. Its crisp contrast, its serialization and symmetry that transformed before my eyes from representation into geometric abstraction, were arresting and beautiful in a troubling kind of way, like public displays of totalitarian power, when large groups of bodies move in strict synchronization. Drone is political, reminding us of the unmanned military aircraft that collect surveillance and deliver death. It also hits close to home here in Seattle, bringing to mind Amazon’s plans to use drones to expedite product delivery as military technology is made into corporate policy. The repetition of forms in Beckley’s image also suggests another definition of drone, a low tone that continues and continues to sound, just as the airplanes shown in the print repeat continuously, one after the other, all headed in the same direction.
In person, at Gallery 110, you’ll notice that in the larger planes, Drone’s crispness begins to break down, becoming grainy and blurred. This quality in the print, along with its subject, reminds me of the work of New York geographer and artist Trevor Paglen, who has used photography to document the satellites and buildings where government surveillance is gathered and stored. Paglen is making images and information about the objects and places that make and keep images and information about us. His works are not often beautiful like Beckley’s Drone, and because he can’t get permission to get any closer to his subjects, graininess often ends up being part of his aesthetic.
Beckley’s print is part of a group show called Outside Looking In at Gallery 110. He has a second print in the exhibition, this one called Mark. As in Drone, there’s a repetition of forms. In this case, it’s a nude male body, sometimes seen in profile, sometimes from the front, sometimes from behind. (You can visit Beckley’s website to see more of his nudes.) It’s easy to make out certain forms — faces, hands, a bent elbow — but others are obscured in the layering or in the fade-out that happens around the print’s dense central core. There’s no clear delivery of image or information here. Instead, we see a blur of alabaster body parts, often beyond easy identification, sometimes spectral.
Gallery 110 is located at 110 3rd Ave. S. in Pioneer Square. David Beckley’s two prints and the whole Outside Looking In exhibition are up through this Saturday, May 2. The gallery is open today through Saturday, 12 noon-5 pm, and there is an artists’ reception to celebrate the run of the show on Saturday from 6-8 pm.