The Precision of Nostalgia

an Introduction to David Plowden by

Stephen Margulies

BAYLY ART MUSEUM
Charlottesville Virginia

One might say that Plowden is contradictory. His nostalgia is precise, almost severe - his sense of loss is clearsighted. He has the same love of America as Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams and also a love craft, but is overwhelmed by a sense of loss.

Plowden belongs to the tradition of Charles Sheeler, Ralston Crawford, Wright Morris and to a lesser extent of Walker Evans (who is in a way much more offhand than Plowden). To belong to a tradition is not the same as being derivative. The emotion that Plowden evokes is unique.

Plowden's very subtle sense of humanity and his sense of humor and his ability to confront his nostalgia rather than drown in it -- make him neither a sentimentalist nor a hard-nosed abstractionist. Somehow, his sense of loss, his nostalgia and his sense of form are one in a clearsighted and unillusioned joy. He is a romantic.

One of the odd things about technology is its romantic aspect. Old machines grow a soul, they are not only beautiful but soulful and even haunted. And yet all this occurs in Plowden in broad daylight. Plowden's faith in older technology is pure and romantic. Oddly enough, Plowden's architecture and empty horizons and empty streets and furniture and machines always hint at a story, a sequence not only of images and patterns but of narrative. Perhaps it is a story of arrival and departure.

There is a poignant fatality in Plowden but also humor and strength and story.


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