Stephen Daly: The Retrospective
October 26 – December 2, 2023
From William Campbell Gallery:
“Stephen Daly illustrates the relationships of man and woman……… to each other, to science and to nature. Daly’s exhibition explores the complications and implications of communicating and relating in modern times.
Irony and paradox abound in Daly’s work. Both figurative and abstract, his art reflects such dualities as chaos and order, hostility and vulnerability, pessimism and optimism. His work can be at once humorous and unsettling for its cynicism.
If a work is powerful enough to remain in the viewer’s memory bank, then it has been a success, according to Daly. His very conscious desire to engage the viewer is achieved in the way the spectator is not only drawn in, but feels himself to be one element framed within the enclosed space. We are involved as we instinctively gaze in the direction the subject indicates.
Though in the midst of a revolutionary time in communications technology, we are more isolated than ever. Daly questions the relevance of language in works such as The Wall and Self Contained Critic. In these computer-generated prints, the subjects are imprisoned or isolated by their own muddled remittances.
Other works such as He Said…She Said (Commingling), handle the condition of contemporary human beings with more optimism. Man and Woman are finally connected as evidenced by their fluid and intertwined dialogue, their eye contact and the proximity of their bodies. Daly describes his figurative sculptures as “situational encounters”.
Daly’s “hybrids” or “drawn sculptures” defy our traditional concept of space and form as they weave between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional. Daly combines the static nature of sculpture with the more atmospheric and gestural qualities of drawing. “The dialogue between the two different kinds of form in flat and dimensional space can be more engaging than either used alone,” Daly states. The diptych Energy and Theory juxtaposes the two mediums suggesting the importance of physical reality rather than theoretical reality. Daly has created these hybrids in his attempt to satisfy the age-old dilemma of making the viewer a part of the artist’s creation. His formula is simple, the viewer is the foreground, the cast and painted “elements” of the still life are the middle ground, and the drawing becomes the background. Double Still Life is direct and formal in this type of presentation. In this diptych format, the drawing in the left half of the composition is a flat depiction of lightly colored flowers in a pot. The three-dimensional sculpted elements make up the right half of the composition and are cleverly attached to the surface of the picture plane and extend into the viewer’s space. These elements are a stark contrast to the drawing, in that they are painted black and are robust in their shape and design. The effect is elegant and playfully surreal!
Still Life With Pink Lips and Speaking to the Plants are vivid and colorful ink, watercolor and collage works that address our human need to appreciate nature on an aesthetic level as well as to protect it for the resources it provides.
Daly’s influences include the European Surrealists Max Ernst and Joan Miro as well as Eduardo Paolozzi, whose metaphorical hybrids also combined the abstract, the figurative and the classical. Exposure to vast amounts of historical and contemporary art during lengthy periods in Italy led to Daly’s incorporating classical and contemporary elements.
A Professor of Art at the University of Texas at Austin since 1981, Daly’s work is currently being exhibited as part of a group show entitled “Mutamentum” that will be touring Italy and Germany for the next two years. He just completed a solo exhibition at the Polytechnic University in Valencia, Spain, as well as group shows at Blue Star Art Space in San Antonio and Havu Gallery in Denver. A recipient of the prestigious Prix de Rome in Sculpture, Daly’s works are in the permanent collections of the Oakland Art Museum, the American Academy in Rome, The McNay Art Museum, the Sheinbaum Foundation among numerous other public and private collections. Stephen Daly has been exhibiting at William Campbell Contemporary Art since 1985.”