Permanent Collection by Tim Davis


Tim Davis – Betty

Notes from Davis, Tim. Permanent Collection. Tucson, Arizona: Nazraeli Press, 2005.

Two very short essays are found in this oversize lavishly illustrated book. The first essay is titled “A New Luminist” by Bill Berkson and the second “Reflecting the Canon: Tim Davis’s Materialist Contingencies”. The first essay centers on Davis’s focus on lighting, and how the distorted lighting of the art museum is present in his work. Davis’s work connects with Muniz’s work in that both investigate how viewers see works of art and the traces of time found on paintings – Davis looks at the front, Muniz the back. Berkson states that Davis’s “personal exemplars” include Walker Evans, Abe Morrell, and Rudy Burckhardt. Davis’s subject matter differs from Muniz in that he is photographing mostly works of art by European masters from the 1500s to the 1800s. The two exceptions are Gerhard Richter’s Betty, and Walker Evans Church Window. It is interesting to note that both Davis and Muniz refer to the works of art by their title only, neither artist mentions the original author in their titles.

Quotes from Berkson essay:

Art objects as they are shown in Davis’s pictures are slices of life as much as any contemporary experience, and seeing them in their stark material aspects, all varnished ridges, striations and cracklings, enhances their poignancy, so that more, rather than less, meaning leaks into the mix.

The encounter with the intimate lineaments of a thing – a rare type of photographic fool-the-eye – is complex, as funny as it is annoying. […] Faced with the pictures’ intrinsic disorientations, you foolishly shift your center of gravity from side to side; as the fixed image refuses to respond – you cannot see the picture better – the Decisive Moment becomes a vain perceptual joke.

Quotes from Beshty essay:

Cracked surfaces bear the marks of time on hallowed masterpieces…

The mythic timelessness of a Watteau or Van Gogh collapses into the temporal and the fleeting, the fragility of age bleeding to the surface like a secret that crept trompe l’oeil out from the conservator’s backrooms and into view. It is this incompatibility between the material understanding of the work, and the seduction of its aura, that Davis offers.

…the tabula rasa of the museum wall accidentally seeped to the surface of the canvases it was meant to disappear behind. Photography has perennially navigated this space between the fleeting and the eternal, between seduction and contemplation, between revelation and concealment…


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