The unbearable lightness of painter David Abed | Bleader

The unbearable lightness of painter David Abed


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David Abed
  • David Abed's Dissolve
Sartre wrote that man is condemned to be free. He is flung into the world and the fact of his existence is the only thing in life that he is not responsible for. Everything else is a choice. Even the act of not choosing is a choice. There is no determinism, only the dizzying, infinitely unfolding possibilities of free will. We chose how to act, how to respond, and in doing so, we choose who we are. "In life man commits himself and draws his own portrait," writes Sartre. "And outside of that there is nothing."

The great malady of the modern condition is paralysis in the face of choice. We are reluctant to commit to canvas a brush stroke that will define our existence. To choose a spouse, a city, a profession, is to define some part of ourselves—to cast an anchor into the fact our existence. But choice is frightening, commitment is terrifying, and so often we remain unmoored, adrift on the sea of freedom.

These are the waters Chicago-based symbolist painter David Abed explores in "Liquid Modernity," which opened last week at Century Guild Chicago.

"In our pursuit of uniqueness and fear of exclusion," says Abed, "we're shifting between jobs, spouses, values, and religion. And with each shift, we trade depth for surface, permanence for the ephemeral."

Abed's ethereal figures, painted in the lush style of the old masters, are captured breaking the plane of dark water. Whether they are sinking or surfacing is impossible to tell. They are slack and languid, bodies seemingly devoid of will, suspended only by the forces that surrounds them. The figures seem to be a study of inertia and inaction. But as Sartre tells us, if we sink it's because we chose not to swim.

Liquid Modernity runs through June 2 at Century Guild Chicago, 2136 W. North, 312-617-8711