Cy Gavin’s recent paintings, such as Untitled (Snag) from 2022, conjure landscapes and the natural world. His imagery frequently starts from his observations of his immediate surroundings, but his selections also carry metaphorical weight. Recent paintings have depicted cosmic phenomena, a failing human-made dam patched by beavers, native and invasive flora, and a forest’s regrowth in the wake of earth disturbances such as construction activities.
Made during a time of lockdown and insurrection, the works are as much depictions of place as allegories of a period that, for many, feels unsettled, transitory, and isolating. Gavin, who grew up in Donora, an industrial town in Pennsylvania’s Rust Belt, is it African-Caribbean ancestry. His work personalizes landscape and embeds it within a particular time. Landscape becomes an engine to explore the subjectivity of the person who paints — and sees – it and also a way to examine the histories each of us bring to that encounter.
Photographed as Part of the 2022 Biennial at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan.