Though the catchy name for his website and business, BoToDo Art & Photography, is an acronym for “Born to Doodle,” New Haven artist David S. Chorney did not pick up an artist’s brush until 2010. His new solo exhibit, “Let it Flow,” is a testament to just how little the artist relies on the brush to bring full expression to his lively canvasses.
Chorney held a reception Saturday at 300 George Street Technology Center for the exhibit, which runs through Apr. 20.
The gallery space, located just beyond the building’s lobby, is a long, well-lit corridor aptly named Art in the Hallway. Jean Perkins, the gallery’s curator and manager, said the gallery provides space to artists in greater New Haven and all of Connecticut free of charge with no commission, but artists promote their own exhibits and hang their own art. When works sell, artists are asked to make a 10 percent contribution to a charity of their choice.
For building owner Winstanley Enterprises, LLC, the arrangement is a means of community support and outreach that helps emerging artists and enlivens building environs, according to Matthew Alix, Connecticut regional property manager for Winstanley. Alix said Winstanley has been providing free gallery space for around seven years and has included young artists from Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School for the last two years.
Chorney’s exhibit includes 18 representational and abstract paintings, largely divided into two groups: black and white DPM paintings (“dropped paint methodogy,” as he calls it) that include portraits and a haunting, smokey landscape ...
.... and abstract works that resonate with vibrant color, gesture and texture.
A financial advisor by day in his own practice, Chorney is a self-taught, intuitive painter who acknowledges his lack of formal training in the arts.
“When I was a kid, I used to doodle all the time in the margins in my notebook. I never stopped doodling. It was just something I did all through school including college,” he said.
His participation in a special postcard design project at Westville’s Kehler Liddell Gallery in 2010 was the impetus for expanding his doodles, and ultimately creating full-fledged paintings. “I painted some of the postcards with my doodles, I drew some of the postcards with colored pencil — that kind of thing. So when I started painting, all I really knew how to do was my doodles. I didn’t really know how to draw or anything.”
Chorney’s “doodles” have evolved, and along with them, an active and prolific practice in the arts. Though he did not participate in any art exhibits until 2014, his exhibition record has flourished since then, with participation in exhibits at the New Haven Armory for City Wide Open Studios, Kehler Liddell Gallery, Silk Road Gallery, Hygienic Gallery in New London and at the Eli Center of Contemporary Art’s “In Grace We Trust” group show, to name a few.
In addition to the obvious physical and content differences of the two groups of paintings that make up “Let it Flow,” the process of mark-making runs from minimal manipulation, as in his DPM technique that requires little actual physical contact with the canvas, to maximum contact using a broad range of tools and materials to build layers of texture and depth in his abstract works.
To create the large, facially focused DPM paintings, Chorney poured paint with intention from various heights above the horizontal canvas. Thinned acrylic paint combined with gel medium, a colorless paint extender, flowed under the force of gravity guided by the artist’s hovering hand, yielding some but not total control. The artist said he never seeks to erase or correct “mistakes” that unfold in the process.
The high-contrast black-and-white images had a kind of flat, graphic quality. So the artist added subtle tonalities in charcoal to give his subjects dimensionality after the layers of paint dried.
In some paintings, Chorney breaks from a strictly black and white format to strongly emphasize color.
Interspersed among the highly spirited face paintings are Chorney’s abstract pieces — spontaneous, improvised works that may include some initial brushwork. But it is the impasto forms and marks, created with modeling or molding paste and given extra grit with pumice, that provide a counterpoint to the bright, saturated colors and gestural movement of the painted surface.
In “Abuse,” Chorney employs colors and marks symbolically, presenting a visual narrative of content that may be readily apparent to the viewer on a visceral level. Chorney said the painting was inspired by the violence of domestic abuse.
“Forty Nine” features a melange of textures and black-and-white tonal values that had their birth in the idea of music. The almost bas-relief quality of the painted surface beckons the viewer’s touch, but there is plenty to consider on a purely visual level.
While some of the works in this exhibit have been seen in previous shows, there are some new pieces, and pairing the representational works with the abstract makes for an interesting juxtaposition. Chorney is clearly now doodling outside the margins of his notebook — unapologetically advancing a visual vocabulary that gains more gravitas with each new exhibit.
“Let it Flow” runs through Apr. 20 at Art in the Hallway, 300 George St. Artists may apply for a six-week exhibition slot by contacting Jean Perkins at 203-843-3865.