Combining found elements with those fashioned by my own hand, my work encompasses two- and three-dimensional collage as well as sculptural objects. Infused with a rich sense of history, the essence of my work lies in the age-old struggle between nature and the man-made industrial world. My challenge is to convey that sense of conflict in a way that resonates with the viewer.
I incorporate Victorian era botanical imagery, ancient anatomical diagrams, and vintage mechanical components along with natural materials. Whether it’s a rusty piece of metal, branches from an oak tree, or tiny turquoise-tipped rooster feathers, the right juxtaposition reveals itself to me—the more absurd, the better. A character is born and a narrative begins to unravel. The theme of flight is recurrent, as is the conflation of anatomy and mechanics. The result is a menagerie of ethereal winged creatures, human and animal hybrids, and fanciful flying machines. In this era of mass-production and instant gratification, it’s my hope that these intimate and meticulously crafted works will also evoke a sense of rarity, delight, and mystery.
Parsons School of Design, Instructor
Pratt Institute, Adjunct Associate Professor
School of Visual Arts
The Painter's Studio, Hanoi, Vietnam
Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, MD.
St. Andrew's School, Middletown, DE.
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY.
The New York Art Directors Club, New York, NY.
Carriage Barn Arts Center, New Canaan, CT,
Denise Bibro Fine Arts, New York, NY
HOW Design Conference, Boston Mass.
Blue Door Gallery, Yonkers, NY
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE
The Alfred & Trafford Klots International Program, Léhon, France
The NY Times, NY; City Arts Magazine, NY; Gallery and Studio News, New Canaan CT; CityArts, NY; Print Magazine, NY; Eyes In Magazine, Novum, Germany; Idea, Japan; Graphis, Switzerland; Chatham Currier, Chatham NY; Kolaj Magazine, Quebec; and International Assemblage, Australia.
REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
Hyperallerigc – September 2016
Disconnected Realities: The Art of David Barnett
by Barry Nemett
A sticky, spiraling tongue forages for termites or ants. It’s lunchtime, but only words fill this anomaly’s lizardly belly. Like many of the beasts within David Barnett’s bizarro worlds, this one has a real-looking face, but that’s where verisimilitude ends and the theater (or circus) of the absurd begins. In “Prototype #6″ (2015), a 2-legged quadruped’s head plays straight man to its whacky body. What we have here is a visual quartet made up of voices that sound like Hieronymus Bosch, Wangechi Mutu, R2-D2, and Woody Allen, if that ensemble knew how to sing and if we could see their song. ...More
Eyes In Magazine – May 2014
David Barnett: Collaging and Questioning the Transformation Into Modernity
by Vivian Van Dijk
Successful art beckons the viewer to pause, to step out of sync with the daily march, even if just for a moment, and consider a meaning on a different plane of thought. Visual artist and collage extraordinaire, David Barnett, achieves this success time and again with his mechanical constructions and collage creations, made of uncycled materials and discarded pieces of machinery.
Often revealed through images from the Victorian era and a conglomeration of individual random pieces, including flying machines working mechanical pieces and anatomical diagrams, Barnett’s intent with his art is to peel back the curtain on modern advancements to reveal what it really is – an experiment ...More
Kolaj Magazine – June 2013
Paper Works Exhibition by Laura Tringali Holmes
In between the seamless digital construction and the built-up painted surfaces were the eccentric, exquisitely crafted collages of David Barnett, whose work is populated with believable, if otherworldly, figures. Relying on visual balance rather than clever juxtapositions (we enjoyed a lively discussion about distraction in collage). Barnett's detailed worlds are ripe with reference while deliberately downplaying the shadow lines and layerings usually associated with collage.
Eyes In Magazine – March 2012
The Fascinatingly Bizarre David Barnett by Vivian Van Dijk
Whether through the literal combination of man and machine, as in “Workmen’s Circle”, which depicts a half-boy, half-robot riding a futuristic bicycle made from found sprockets, wheels and springs – the boy and the contraption have converged, blurring the line between man and machine – or in his modified pastel painted and penciled collage “In Your Face (book), a tongue in cheek look at the superficial aspects of today’s digital social networks, David Barnett prompts the viewer to participate in this timely dialogue. ...More
CityArts – January 2011
Winter Salon: 2010-2011 by Maureen Mullarkey
The weeks between mid-December and early January are a slow news time in the galleries. That makes it a very good time to introduce artists whom galleries are interested in taking aboard or ones they simply like but cannot accommodate on the roaster. Denise Bibro's Winter Salon is a lively sampler of 21 artists, six of them invited guests.
Recognition comes slowly to artists like David Barnett, sui generis and not readily pigeonholed in a particular movement or line of descent. His fey, delicately crafted are about the most satisfying works on the contemporary scene.
Fragments of found materials are conjured into collages and intricate three-dimensional machines that combine Victorian-era botany, vintage anatomy plates and medieval saints into darkly imagined hybrids. Fragile nightmares, really. Barnett’s Company of Three Players, is a stage set with figures made of calibers, springs and a medley of figures, both the likeable and the unlovely. It is a good introduction to his pictorial wit.
CityArts – May 2010
David Barnett: Sacred Creatures by Melissa Stern
Viewing the deliciously obsessive art of David Barnett, one is drawn into his world of twisted Victoriana and mechanical madness. The exhibition at Denise Bibro Gallery is a combination of collage, found objects and extraordinary mechanisms fabricated by the artist. It is a complex show, and not everything works, but the pieces that do are knockouts.
Barnett has titled his exhibition Sacred Creatures after pieces early in the series that combine religious iconography with the imagery of flying insects. The exhibition quickly veers into other territory exploring family, history, flying machines and mechanical toys.
Exquisitely crafted, the sculptures are a delight. Tiny gears and minutely crafted mechanical apparatus turn the piece ALB 09 into a marvel of engineering and design. An elongated mechanical flying machine, a sort of primitive helicopter, is constructed of delicate struts made of copper and brass. The front, like the prow of a ship, is a huge Victorian baby head collaged in old newsprint.
All of the sculptures are robust in design and execution. Tin Man, Sir Oswald and Family Tree are simply marvelous. Some of the pieces actually work via small motors that drive the Ferris wheel of Family Tree around an awkward motion. Others imply the notion of work but are in fact static.