David Lynch at the Milan Triennale: The Air is on Fire

Congratulations to Triennale President Davide Rampello for bringing to Milan (until Jan. 13, 2008) this exhibition of David Lynch‘s paintings, drawings, photographs and early experimental and animation shorts. Organized by the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, curated and installed by Lynch himself, The Air is on Fire is the largest retrospective ever to focus on Lynch’s art outside cinema, digging among other things into two black folders containing a lifetime’s worth of sketches, doodles and notes.

Fans will recall that Lynch studied art in Washington and Boston; after a short interlude in Europe (he was meant to stay for three years, studying painting with Oskar Kokoschka, but returned to the United States after 15 days, apparently upset by the neatness and cleanliness he encountered in Salzburg), Lynch attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He then stumbled into the movies more or less by accident, and the rest is history (of cinema).

Walking through this exhibition is a bit like sitting through INLAND EMPIRE, but, at your choice, shorter. Lynch’s paintings look like they’ve been made by a terminally traumatized child of Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois, extensively trained in Art Brut technique and living in a dark attic where the main pastime is invoking Jean-Michel Basquiat’s comeback from his grave. Lynch’s photographs carry echoes of Hans Bellmer and Max Ernst. His sketches belie a fine draftsman. His presentation of the works is deliberately neither chronological nor thematic, following only his imperscrutable inner logic.


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