Paul Donald: CB1 Gallery



Paul Donald’s exhibit titled Blind, is located in the other half of the CB1 Gallery in downtown LA. The entire exhibit displays duck figures (of the same species, it looks like) with molded heads, seemingly going about their day or posing in the “natural habitat” of the gallery space. I found the literal translation of the paintings into sculpture (or perhaps Donald began with the sculptures?) interesting in that it was so faithful in replicating all the aspects of the figures, which made me wonder why he intended such a precise conversion. It almost looks like the paintings were created as character design sheets as a means to bring these characters into 3-dimensional being. This interplay between sculpture and painting reminds me of one of the artists whose lecture we attended a few weeks ago – she would choose a particular figure amongst a crowd of figures and made it into a sculpture that still appeared to retain its painterly qualities. Her translations, however, were much more compelling in that it really exposed the distortions of the body in a very raw way. Donald’s simplistic design and decision to solely represent one type of figure made me indifferent toward the relationship between his paintings and sculptures.

I enjoyed the visual playfulness and Dr. Seuss-like comicalness in the overall presentation of the exhibit. The basic out-of-the-tube color choices makes me recall my artistic endeavors in childhood – for a while I (and probably most children) didn’t have an elaborate set of crayons and colored pencils with the slightest nuances in shades. I often relied on a small box set of Crayola crayons that would contain precisely the black, white, orange, yellow, blue, and green we see in the paintings. Though there is something viscerally disturbing about how the beaks of the eye-less ducks morph in unexpected ways, the coloring book quality mostly steers our impression toward childhood imagination. It is sort of channeling some themes of Dada art, encouraging us to take a fantastical perspective on commonplace non-exotic beings such as ducks we can see in most parks, lakes, etc. Something as simple as distorting beaks/heads upwards, downwards, elongating, flattening already produces a sense of fantasy. The paintings did not so much resonate with me as did the sculptures. I felt that the paintings lost the innocence and playfulness by being too direct/trying too hard to convey the stark simplicity and funny head shapes. I didn’t like how Donald promoted the imagination and quirkiness of his ideas through the paintings – but it worked for the sculptures, which appear more elegant and are more successful. It’s almost like a child was assigned to create duck modeling show, something that might be titled “The Latest in Fashion for Duck Masks.” I think by me having that very thought, Donald achieved his aim to draw out some more of the uninhibited creativity of the childhood mind, temporarily Blind to the formal education and training that people popularly like to claim has been killing our creativity. In the words of Picasso –  “All children are born artists, the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.” I had a good time trying to interpret this exhibit. Go check it out to experience something oddly fun, or to have a chuckle.

– Jessica Huang



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