David Dunlap, Jun 05 | Dunlap’s Art is to Art as a Coral Reef is to Architecture


David Dunlap at Gallery 51 East in Fairfield, Iowa (photo by Mark Paul Petrick, ©2005).

“He’s all sort of community and loving, and a bit impenetrable.”
— a visitor to the exhibition

David Dunlap is a cultivator of relationships, a planter of conceptual seeds, a harvester of images, and a packager of the fruits of his obsessive creative labors in exhibitions that seem to accrete into place like a tantalizingly wonder-filled coral reef.

Among his various artistic personas, Dunlap is now the proprietor of Walnut Farms, an Inter-Species Artists Collective that guarantees to you: “In the SWEETNESS of Time all the Love in the World.” It would be understatement to invoke collaboration as a strategy of his work. David’s life (probably not all that unlike yours) is a regular flow of interactions, combustions, discussions, ingestions, and creative regurgitations. He is a disciplined obsessive about keeping notebooks as the place of record for the thoughts, images, and findings of each day. The notebooks and pages from them often become the stuff of an exhibition, where a single sketched pattern may be repeated several times, once per page, with attendant notes and date.

Like any good cultivator, the passing of time, as days, months, and seasons, holds a special interest for Dunlap. And, like the rows in a field orlines in a notebook, the rows of days that make weeks and accumulate on top of each other to become a month are given special expression as large, painted, monthly calendars. These are often made with a collaborator (or collaborators), embellished and used, each day its own box, a place for more recordings of his life’s activities.

If I’ve given the impression that Dunlap is all grids and detached, cool note-making, pardon me, for nothing could be further from the Truth. The lines in the notebook or the boxes on the calendar are only suggestions of an order upon which the tangle of his energies, obsessions, shared images, and fantasies emerge. The repeated cartoons, cryptograms, and utopianism of the notebooks and calendars overflow onto his clothes, sculptures of implements, pottery, pottery as clothes, wearable sculptures, and vast collections of tidbits and paraphernalia, often in unexpected and provocative combinations.

His delight in others’ work translates as images made by two or more people and the attendant sharing of credit. This exhibition of Dunlap’s seems to bring together the energies of more accomplices than any I’ve seen before. It feels like an art show assembled by a traveling circus of politically astute, graffiti-inspired pranksters on the verge of OCD (or maybe deeply in the throes of it). There are so many stories laced together throughout the exhibit, many written on the walls, or hinted at, and you are asked, beckoned, and lured into taking part.

As is often repeated in the exhibit (and so helpfully so, if you dare take it as a guidance):