Research, analysis, travel, discovery, exploration, collection and re-contextualization are fundamental creative and critical modes for Vieno James, an artist whose approach to making mixed-media, labor-intensive work merges scholarship and aesthetic concerns into excavational, probing syntheses that might be likened to the practices of cultural anthropologists. In Provider, James's debut solo exhibition at M.David & Co., the young artist demonstrates himself to be an eager 'provider' of experiences, say, by way of the objects and narratives he culls from various places, interprets in some way, and crafts anew. Of particular importance, however, is that James is also an avid gatherer.
Indeed, he is a 'provider and gatherer', one might say, and in no way a 'hunter.' James hasn't traveled to places like Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Easter Island, New Zealand, and various locations in Europe and the Middle East in search of trophies to carry home or cultural signifiers to fashionably re-appropriate. Rather, in large pieces like "Moon River, Star Gazing", "Provider" and "Babel", it is clear that James visits such places in search of very basic objects and stories to incorporate into his work. This often leads him to use materials of an organically fragile, almost evanescent sort — bone, sand, palm frond, pineapple, coconut, coconut husk — delicate objects that he then binds, frames and reworks in an act of preservation and humble praise.
The extent to which such basic things, and our encounters with and understandings thereof are affected by technology and waste, are also important concerns in James's artistic and intellectual pursuits. This is perhaps most visible in his works featuring QR codes and VR pathways. His more intimate, extensively mixed-media works on paper channel themes of death and sexuality.
If Provider takes viewers on so many vicarious journeys around the world, then Out There, Mary DeVincentis's concurrent show in the M.David & Co. project space, encourages visitors to retrace the imaginative circuits of her creative mind. Now fanciful and felicitous, now umbrageous or subtly mysterious, DeVincentis's fresh new suite of small paintings, most of them in oil on relatively raw cuts of wood, depict the settings and protagonists of individual and interrelatable narratives.
The tales in Out There, however, have yet to be told. Its constituent settings are still all manner of 'somewheres', and its protagonists remain, by and large, unnamed. That is, DeVincentis's stories and, perhaps, composite story are purely visual and open to interpretation — as unscripted as adventures spawned by insouciance and wanderlust, as loosely present and transient as dreams. You'll surely wonder if the child in "Little One" is as lost as she seems, if the place in "Rose Oasis" might really exist, and who or what is ostensibly levitating in "Near Death Experience," and why? You'll wonder, yes, but just keep wondering, then wonder a while longer. Wonder is a fantastic state, after all. Why rush to quicken yourself out of it?
— Paul D'Agostino is an artist, writer, translator and curator based in Brooklyn, New York.
Based in New York City, Vieno James is an artist and student of art and international relations. He received his BFA from SVA and is currently enrolled in the MFA Program at Mason Gross School of the Arts as a Graduate Fellow. James has exhibited in group shows at Flatiron Gallery, Western Colorado Center for the Arts, Purchase College, The Living Gallery and M.David & Co., among other national and international venues, and he has completed artist residencies in Egypt and Japan. He has been featured in Quiet Lunch, CBS News, Artsy, Whitehot Magazine and D/Railed, among others. He is also a Political Affairs Intern at the U.S.-Asia Institute in Washington, DC.
Mary DeVincentis has been featured in solo and group exhibits at David & Schweitzer Contemporary, Life on Mars, The Painting Center, The International Printmaking Center, Brooklyn Public Library, White Columns and The Brooklyn Museum. She received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Printmaking at Central St. Martin's, in London. DeVincentis is represented by M.David & Co. in New York, and by Gibbons and Nicholas in Dublin, Ireland. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.