Metaplasmic: The Art of David Lloyd. H20 Magazine

Metaplasmic: The Art of David Lloyd

LA painter, Chuck Arnoldi, sits still. An active guy and restless, only his flitting eyes betray him as David Lloyd orbits, $8 camera in hand, snapping through the roll of frames.

To the chatter and cranking whine of the camera, a fractal portrait is slowly being assembled. Lloyd moves in and out, getting broad strokes and clinical details. 

Click, the sweep of Arnoldi’s hair. Click, the trajectory of a sunbaked crease across the man’s forehead. A mole is caught here, a dimple seen there. Profile shots; the left, the right; eyebrows close then from afar. Lloyd keeps firing. The film’s spent. They go eat lunch.

In the studio, from a growing pile of clippings threaded with drops of remnant hotmelt glue, a sculpture has arisen. It’s Arnoldi, chopped, cropped and reassembled in SoCal meets Transylvania style. Clippings from the shoot are everywhere and countless portions of the photos have been glued to a three dimensional bust carved of packing foam. A walk around the piece reveals the
roving focus of the photo shoot: certain areas are glaringly revealed: a liver-spotted earlobe, cropped and pasted in, the unflinching eyes -a composite of innumerable snapshots.

But the piece congeals. The portrait lives. The Headestal is born.

Across the studio floor, stained with the colored progress of countless pictures, a group of paintings is underway. These pictures are about surfing. The works are smallish, for the most part; pieces you could sling under your arm. They have the token feel of souvenirs clutched hastily before leaving a distant place, or maybe even a dream. Within the flea-market frames the artist
has chosen, ochre vistas reveal perfect, subtropical point break set ups. Long expanses of open sea, rippling under the equatorial sun, pocked suddenly with eruptions of palm-lined and totemic mountains. At the feet of these vertiginous atolls, empty waves peel off, unridden, unknown.

Another group of surfing pictures blends Lloyd’s decades-long engagement with abstract painting (a resume studded with important exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco) and a newfound interest in computer-generated imagery. These are typically works on paper, mounted to plywood panels then glossed over with sleek sheets of liquid epoxy. In these pictures, photographs of surfing videos, scanned and subsequently bitted out in lo-fi degeneration, mash up against amplified and lurid brushstrokes. Stains of cobalt blue,
harrowing pinks and hazmat orange slide over the dim and moody silhouettes of Butch van Artsdale and George Downing, owning Waimea.

On a subsequent visit, David’s got 3 enormous canvases, huge things, leaning against the wall. Each painting has a thick and velvety skin of paper that has been laid down to it. As if the piece had been guilded in massive sheaves of butter. To this pristine surface, he has forced collage, text, trompe l’oeil drawing, and loose, gestural painting to cooperate. The results are breathtaking and expansive. Like the surfing pictures and headestals, these works have a cartographic quality that suggest multiple views. They are at once outsider/insider; microscopic and macroscopic. Known and unknown.

In, The Cosmic Pendulum, perfectly-drawn renderings of strands of yarn link gigantic insects to radar apparatus, cut from National Geographic magazines. Splatters of milky paint collect and form a landscape, upon which villagers celebrate, grasping the gaping remains of a massive, tiger shark. A clotted mass of dripping oil paint has been coterized with a blob of purple encaustic.
It serves as the shadow cast by an apparatus from which a missile will be fired. These disparate images, flashes from the globe, each vivid and startling, appear at opposite ends of his enormous picture. The overall effect is one of uncomfortable logic. The composition sweeps the eye across the picture, looping and arcing, resting here, then darting there. It’s an epic, to be sure, but one that pauses for the precious fragments of smaller stories.

Works like The Cosmic Pendulum are examples of David at his most ambitious. These types of pictures are confounding in their reluctance to immediate reading because of their engagement in plural discourse.  They are at once abstract images where swirls and splashes, texture and color shifts –all elements begging a formalist reading of the piece, commingle with fragmented
images, text and photography –tropes more common to a conceptual art practice. This is exactly where Lloyd wants the work to be. They are reflections of a wandering and ambitious intelligence.

David has described his process as one that invites spontaneous and improvisational construction; one where non-linear and fleeting threads are pursued and indulged until they expire. It’s a method of working he has compared to the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder; where disparate stimuli overwhelms concentration and any hierarchical management of ideas
becomes impossible. It is a way of working that can produce stunning results and bleak moments of confusion.

Despite the mental chatter occurring in the studio, despite the clamor of competing ideas, Lloyd rightly insists that this method is one that can yield satisfying and bold results. At its darkest, perhaps this methodology is eerily consistent with the plight of ADD, but one could also maintain that the process refers to the improvisational act of surfing –a lifelong passion for the artist. 

1970’s North Shore style god and living legend Gerry Lopez, suggested that surfing’s greatest gift is the surfer’s learnt ability to exist entirely in the moment. The very act of riding waves requires steady attention and willingness to adjust constantly to the sweeping changes of the sea. This complicit engagement with chance is precisely where Lloyd’s work and his surfing coalesce.

Just as the paintings are not content to rely solely on formalist interpretation; just as the headestals must be conglomerations of shifting views; just as the surfing pictures mix media, color and reference with such gusto, Lloyd’s art shows a consistent willingness to court change.

It’s August and the studio is sweltering. South swells are backing up Malibu and the MongoLloyd, an eight-foot surfboard hacked from the carcass of a generic and ghost-shaped longboard is being forced to life. Peeled skin from this blank lies in a pile of dog hair in the corner and David is shaping with a spoon in one hand and a Surform in the other. The belly of the Mongolloyd
has a Marianna-like, concave trench running down from the mid point to the bat-eared tail he’s carved. Two side canard fins hang in near the rails, but the main attraction is the arch that sweeps over the deepest part of the concave. Lloyd has replaced the fin with what can almost be described as a halved beer can, made of resin and glass. The dome above echoes the concave of the bottom below, not unlike a Venetian bridge over a canal. “For holding Mongolloyd pleasure”, the artist asserts.

This board goes great at 4 foot Malibu where heckles from behind yield to respectful curiosity when a potential confrontation on the beach ultimately reveals the wacko bottom, stumped shape and Batman tail of this peculiar craft. As of this writing, “MongoLloyd -for Her” is in the shaping bay.

Alex Weinstein
September 2006