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SPRING/BREAK 2019 'FACT AND FICTION': David B. Frye: The Lincoln Paintings

Exhibition dates: March 5th 11am-8pm, March 6th - 11th 11am - 7pm

866 U.N. PLAZA // Entrance at 48th Street and 1st Avenue

David B. Frye explores alternative versions of American history in The Lincoln Paintings, a series of painted wood panels in carved wood frames. In Frye’s version of history, a sexualized world of shifting power dynamics is a counterpoint to saccharine Americana. The Lincoln Paintingsare unlimited by reality, telling a story that, while false, illustrates hard-to-place truths.

Frye’s paintings both fantasize and critique uneven power dynamics through the snake cock motif. These cocks cannot be contained, offering a visualization of the absurdity of white patriarchal power.

Frye presents the unbridled exploitation of colonial power and the unchecked passions of founding fathers and contrasts these with ideals of free love and individual agency.While other bodies of work more directly approach his own family’s history as slaves, Frye critiques America’s internal diplomacy towards white slave owners and their attempt to whitewash the end of slavery into a tale of white heroes and grateful, compliant slaves.

Lincoln was, in Frye’s words, “an avatar of virtue,” a role that is always a fiction. If Lincoln is the spotless hero, then we don’t have to be heroes ourselves or fight against forced prison labor ratified by the 13th amendment. David B. Frye’s The Lincoln Paintings lampoon Lincoln’s virtually spotless reputation, celebrate sex, implicate white power, and warn against obedience in all its forms.

In the artist’s words:

“American historical painting has, for the most part, always been about ideals and ideal realities. Americana is an ideal representation of the glory of us. Through this device, painting is frequently pressed into the service of some perceived “good” to our society. I think of the happy slaves one sees romping through their chores at the splendid home of George Washington. I can promise you all, there is such a painting. It hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I did not paint it, of course, but it is as much a product of lies as any thing I ever dreamt up. Such a painting not only tells the “story of George Washington,” it supports an ideal social order that many Americans are comfortable with. Think of pious Christian mothers free from the struggles and trials of women, or walls filled with images of those soldiers who do not bleed, but walk eternally towards the glory of battle. Our national story is made clean by means of these symbolic realities. Our history is thereby expunged of the lessons hidden in its tragedy. This may be seen as the noble lie that Plato spoke of.” –David B. Frye

When I discovered Art, I was drawn into the hell fire and brimstone of a Bosch painting, the otherworldliness in it made me pause. I connected with the belief that drove a man to make Hell real. Then discovered within those works a hidden hand. The absurd nature of humanity’s suffering. A dark humor. I started painting when I was 15 years old. I still find new heroes in art. Over the years I kept working. I ended up studying painting and printmaking at John Herron school of Art in Indianapolis where I earned a B.F.A. In 1985. I moved to Richmond, Virginia where I received a M.F.A from Virginia Commonwealth University. Over the many years I have maintained a practice and exhibited as an artist. –David B. Frye

Install shot by Samuel Morgan Photography



"This curator-driven fair has been, as its name suggests, the youngest, most raucous and most egalitarian of the New York fairs...the fair remains the place to find new art." - Roberta Smith, The New York Times

"As always, curators have brought with them an impressive squad of artists, many emerging, and a bold vision, collectively transforming the unconventional space into the city’s coolest art venue." - Sarah Cascone, Artnet

"Spring/Break, now in its eighth edition, is unlike any other exhibition at this time of year – it puts statement before sale." - Nadja Sayej, The Guardian

“Now in its eighth year of bringing weird and wonderful art into unlikely spaces, Spring/Break [is] traditionally the best show in town during jam-packed Armory Arts Week.” - Scott Lynch, Gothamist

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