VCU to feature works by Davi Det Hompson

Anderson Gallery, Special Collections to Focus on Late Artist

The intersection of image and word in the creation of art will be featured in two Virginia Commonwealth University exhibitions showcasing the works and collections of the late multimedia artist Davi Det Hompson. VCU is joining with three Central Virginia galleries to present the retrospective exhibitions in "Davi Det Hompson: Just Out of Reach," opening Sept. 3.

A VCU faculty member, the former David E. Thompson reconfigured the spacing of the letters of his name in 1966 to create his artistic signature, Davi Det Hompson. In addition to his national prominence as a book artist and early ties to the Fluxus artists’ association, Hompson experimented with various media, including installation, painting, performance and video.

Howard Risatti, a VCU art historian and critic, coordinated the five-part project. He calls the retrospective "both a tribute and a reminder of how a single individual possessing generosity of spirit and purpose can infuse a vital humanity into the life of his neighbors and his community."

At VCU, the Anderson Gallery, 907 ½ W. Franklin St., will offer "Thunk," featuring examples of Hompson’s many book works and objects involving text. Special Collections and Archives, part of University Library Services, will offer "Got." This show will include a selection of numerous artists’ book works collected by Hompson and acquired by the James Branch Cabell Library, 901 Park Ave.

"Thunk" explores Hompson’s critically acclaimed text work, including his influence with the Fluxus movement, which featured irreverant artists such as George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys and Yoko Ono. The 40 pieces to be displayed range from finely crafted books to intentionally rustic prints – all linked by their use of text. The show, set to close on Oct. 24, also includes samples of collaborative works with Cliff Baldwin created shortly before Hompson died unexpectedly in December 1996.

These text works at first appear disarmingly obvious and approachable. On second impression, the works become perhaps comical or disturbing.

"There is a juxtaposition of the way a word looks visually versus what the word means," said John Caperton, exhibit curator and Anderson Gallery special projects coordinator. "Viewing his work conjures up more than what you see on the surface. It’s an interactive experience. The simplicity of his design creates a whole train of thought among the viewers, who are challenged to create their own context or meaning for the words they see before them."

"Got" showcases manuscripts and book art collected by Hompson and acquired in 1979 as the foundation for the VCU library’s 3,000 book art holdings. VCU is showcasing about 50 works from Hompson’s 300-item collection. "Got", which will close Oct. 17, was curated by Nicole De Armendi and Rebecca Dobyns, both art history students and library assistants.

Hompson’s collection encompasses all aspects of contemporary book art publications, ranging from printed text and photo narratives to multi-structured objects of art. This art form began to expand in the 1970s with artists’ production of handmade books, self-produced magazines and serial publications – all made easier with new techniques for duplication, narration and sequencing of images. Book art provided a physical format that explored wide-ranging conceptual themes introduced a decade earlier.

Other exhibitions and sites in the retrospective series are: "Skin," Hand Workshop Art Center; "Mud," 1708 Gallery, co-curated by VCU’s Risatti; and "Did," Reynolds Gallery.

A progressive public opening will be held on Sept. 3. VCU’s Anderson Gallery will be open from 7-9 p.m. and Special Collections from 7-8 p.m. A special audience-participatory exhibition catalog will be available at the opening. Viewers will receive an envelope at the first venue; at each site, they will add cards with color reproductions of Hompson’s work and exhibition essays.

The Anderson Gallery is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday, 1-5 p.m. For details, call the gallery at 828-1522.

Special Collections and Archives, on the fourth floor of Cabell Library, is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-6 p.m., with other hours by appointment. For details, call 828-1108.