David Gilbert

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Artist Statement

My studio is a world I control, a place resembling a laboratory or stage where I choose what to make, what to celebrate, and what to photograph. I am drawn to threadbare materials, castoff scraps of fabric and bits of yarn, paper, and wood out of which I make delicate sculptural scenes. I photograph these scenes in order to give them importance and stature and to memorialize that which could be easily overlooked. I often photograph these works as if they were portraits rather than still -lives to find a personified beauty and poignancy where the viewer, and by extension, society, rarely expects to find it.

Like their materials, my assemblages similarly “want” to be noticed and taken seriously. The objects become imbued with a vulnerability and pathos, and the resulting photographs are both sad and funny in the capture of this desire on display. In a harsh world, my studio becomes a place where fragile and unconventionally beautiful forms are given the space to take root. It becomes a place to examine and celebrate the unusual.

This purposeful strangeness can be understood as a kind of queerness. A queer way of viewing the world is complicated and multilayered, allowing room for misfits, irregularity, and things that, bucking convention, are difficult to securely define. My photographs share that representational strategy of oscillation and difference; their subjects are hard to pin down. Exactly what the forms “are” or what the images “are of” is difficult to name, yet the photographs are in focus, and the materials remain legible: paper, fabric, yarn. Colors and imagery flirt with signifiers of specific genders and sexualities without ever landing definitively.

In this way, the studio becomes a small ecosystem of its own. Material objects develop, grow, occupy space, inhabit their environment, fall apart, die, and regenerate in different guises. The act of photographing momentarily freezes this acutely changing world, making small moments at turns epic, important, dramatic, and above all, narrative beyond subject or character study. This world of things tells its own, purposefully unstable and fluid story; the photographs capture these momentary vignettes mid-rustle.

Recently, this practice has come to focus on aspects of the natural world, reproduced. Flowery fabrics, butterfly stickers, and pictures of plants scanned from books populate my studio. This artificial imagery brings with it a strange idea of nature: its cultural gendering as both feminine and frail. I began to think about fragility as an expanded condition: the messy eco-system of my studio relating to the precariousness of environmental change in the Anthropocene. How will we understand nature as historical and memorialize both recent and imminent extinction?

In that light, the most ephemeral things haunt the impossibility of permanence. It is a haunting that confronts us daily, but as I make work, it’s those same moments I find the most beautiful and deserving of notice before being relegated to the great cosmic landfill of the past. Whether butterfly cut-outs, a rickety statue, or a queer ethos in my studio world, a photograph is a still moment, a pause to contemplate the fragile and overlooked in the world at large.



MFA, UC Riverside, Riverside, California
BFA, Photography and Imaging – Tisch School of the Arts, New York University


Neighbors (with Rachelle Sawatsky), Del Vaz Projects, Los Angeles, CA
Baby Girl, The Finley, Los Angeles, CA
The Secret Garden, Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York, NY
Coming of Age, Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York, NY
Angels, Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York, NY
Sorry They Couldn’t Be Here Tonight, Tierney Fellowship Exhibition, New York, NY
Blueboy, Workspace, Los Angeles, CA


Hurts to Laugh, Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, CA
1/1/1, awhrhwar, Los Angeles, CA
9/11 – fifteen years, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA Five, The Marjorie Barrick Museum, UNLV, Las Vegas, NV
A Room of One’s Own, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York, NY
Far and High, Fahrenheit Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
A Frayed Knot, Jancar Jones Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Blow Up, Lucien Terras, New York, NY.
Decenter: An Exhibition on the Centenary of the 1913 Armory Show, Abrons Art Center, New York, NY
External Original, Clifford Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
Group Show, Andrea Rosen, New York, NY
Out-of            , Michael Benevento, Los Angeles, CA
Works of Paper, ACME, Los Angeles, CA
Rear Window, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Die Dame, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Hallowing, Infernoesque, Berlin, Germany
Last Minute Intervention, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
David Gilbert, Ian Pedigo, Jessica Stockholder, Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Duets (with Paul Pescador), Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), Los Angeles, CA
Reading in Front of My Face, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA
Duets (with Paul Pescador) as part of PERFORMA15, New York, NY


Artist-in-Residence, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
About Time,” PERFORMA Magazine commission.
Tierney Fellowship.
AIM Fellow, Bronx Museum of Art, Bronx, NY.

Lehrer-Graiwer, Sarah, “Portfolio by David Gilbert,” Bomb Magazine, August 3, 2017 Campbell, Andy, Hurts to Laugh, Pick, artforum.com, July 2017
Schwendener, Martha, David Gilbert’s ‘The Secret Garden,’ Photography as Dreamscape,
The New York Times, November 19, 2015
Goings on About Town, The New Yorker, November 16, 2015
Schwendener, Martha, Gathering of Far-Flung Friends, and Trends, The New York Times, May 8, 2014 Howe, David Everitt, “The Expanded Photograph”, ArtReview, May 2014
Newbury, Susanna, “Superfluous Things”, X-TRA Magazine, Spring 2014 Rector, Chelsea, “A Frayed Knot”, ArtSlant, February 15, 2014
Hall, Emily, “David Gilbert”, Artforum, December, 2013
Kimball, Whitney, “Pink: David Gilbert at Klaus von Nichtssagend”, ArtFCity, October 2 Goings On About Town, The New Yorker, October 2, 2013
Asfour, Nana, “David Gilbert, ‘Coming of Age’”, TimeOutNewYork, September 30, 2013
Diehl, Travis. Pick. Artforum.com. “Out of           ,” Michael Benvento Goings On About Town, The New Yorker. January 16, 2012
Meier, Allison, “Debris After an Artistic Storm,” on hyperallergic.com. January, 2012
Hering, Deridre. “David Gilbert’s Unassuming Sculptures Become Angelic Photographs”
The L Magazine, December, 2011 interview on iheartphotograph

A Public Affair, an Elizabeth Taylor Film Festival, Veggie Cloud, Los Angeles, CA.
TMI (a week of performances), Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA.
Flames on the Side of My Face, Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York, NY.
A Land Before Time, Workspace, Los Angeles, CA.


Chapman University, CA. Rutgers University, NJ.
Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, NY. UC – Riverside, CA.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas. NV. University of Southern California, CA.