Verne Dawson + Cy Gavin at Gavin Brown’s enterprise ~ Harlem



Verne Dawson, FIRE (In Artichoke), 2019

Gavin Brown’s enterprise in Harlem will open it’s doors in March to two exhibitions ~ Verne Dawson: The Theft of Fire, Expulsion & Mudslide and Cy Gavin.

Verne Dawson will present a two-venue exhibition with The Theft of Fire, Expulsion & Mudslide at Gavin Brown enterprise in Harlem, concurrently with the exhibition, Paintings, at Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Noho.

 Dawson has been described as a narrative painter; frequently taking recognizable tales from mythology, religion, and folklore as his subjects. His paintings, though, are not only narrative, but narratalogical – examining the significance and recurrence of certain stories, even proffering a continuity of culture from the dawn of man to our modern moment. The personal becomes epic, and vice versa: a painting titled Expulsion illustrates the artist’s own experience being repeatedly kicked off of a lake by a private security service, after having regularly swum there for nearly 40 years. The title, as well as the picture, draw on comparative mythology, harkening to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. 

Dawson’s work is informed by an impressive knowledge of art from prehistory to the present; the history of painting is both playground and reference library. He maintains an interest in early sciences – especially astronomy and timekeeping – and revels in their legacies as manifest in contemporary life. 

At the core of his artistry is an idiosyncratic and deeply-held set of convictions about nature, spirituality, and humanity – a belief that beauty gives meaning to life, that painting can be a devotional act. 

Vern Dawson: The Theft of Fire, Expulsion & Mudslide will be located on the First and Second Floors at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, Harlem.

Cy Gavin, Untitled (Surf), 2018

The exhibition, Cy Gavin, features a series of nocturnal landscapes exploring ancestry and colonial histories in Bermuda, the homeland of the artist’s father, and the Hudson Valley, where the artist’s studio is based. A departure from figuration, the works are portraits of places – the landscapes serve as proxies for the body. 

The centerpiece of the exhibition, Bash Bish Falls, is a 12-by-28 foot painting of the well-known waterfall, which is located on the border of New York and Massachusetts in a gorge formed in the last ice age. According to lore, the site is named after a Mohican woman who met her death after being pushed over the waterfall. Though there were witnesses to her murder, her body was never recovered. The site is one of many in Hudson Valley with a native name and a forgotten or obfuscated narrative. Gavin visited the site during the full lunar eclipse in February of this year, painting the work alone in the desolation of a freezing winter night with a consciousness of a changing global climate. 

Isolation, furthermore abandonment, is a theme Gavin explores in the landscapes of Bermuda. Untitled (Gibbet Island) depicts the Bermudian island on which runaway slaves were hanged by gibbet as a warning to other possible insurgents. Purposely removed from Bermuda’s main island, Gibbet Island appeased a contemporaneous mythology that put forth that the souls of the condemned could only haunt their assailants if they were killed on the same land: disturbing but tacit proof of personhood. Gavin painted the work to refer to the body – the cave can be seen as layers of skin, hair or even marks on the body like wounds or bruises. This is the artist’s first show with Gavin Brown’s enterprises. It will be on view on the Fourth Floor.


Verne Dawson: The Theft of Fire, Expulsion & Mudslide and Cy Gavin will be on view from March 3 to April 14, 2019, with Opening Reception for both exhibitions to be held on Sunday March 3 from 3-6pm at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, 439 West 127th Street in Harlem.

Verne Dawson: Paintings is in conjunction with, and will run concurrently with Gavin Brown enterprise, at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, 39 Great Jones Street, in NoHo from March 8 to April 21, 2019.