Schorr to Exhibit Apothecary Bottle Paintings at Davison Art Center

David LowJanuary 23, 20124min
Old Flames - Handle with Care (2010) by David Schorr.

The most recent work by Professor of Art David Schorr will be shown in February and March 2012 in the exhibition APOTHECARY (storehouse) at Davison Art Center. The show features more than 75 paintings of antique apothecary bottles that have been meticulously executed by Schorr in gouache and silverpoint on luxurious, colored Fabriano Roma papers.

The exhibit opens at noon, Feb. 3. Schorr will speak at 5:30 p.m. and the gallery will be open until 7 p.m. that day. Schorr also will speak at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in the Center for the Arts Hall.

A 160-page full-color catalog accompanies the exhibition.

The bottles in these paintings float curiously in space, a mysterious, bright light glistening on their curves and bevels, sometimes shimmering through but not revealing their contents. Some of the objects seem empty. The bottles are meant to contain not chemicals and unguents but stuff such as Bad Intentions, Furtive Glances, Old Flames, Lazy Afternoons, Sweet Love Remembered and Sleepless Nights. Just as their original models bear labels in Latin or pharmaceutical terms only partially understood, these painted labels are often in foreign languages: French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Yiddish and others.

Deep Dark Secrets (2010).

The English labels often have poetic sources. Two are labeled Rough Magic and Present Mirth. In an insightful essay by Professor of English Emerita Phyllis Rose in the accompanying catalog, she identifies Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Twelfth Night as the sources of these two phrases, while she explains Schorr’s concept and process with startling clarity. Other words on the labels remain obscure, tantalizing and teasing the viewer.

In the exhibition catalog, Professor Schorr offers the following statement about the works: “For a problem that had been plaguing me, a wise ophthalmologist suggested I try artificial tears. In gratitude I made him a drawing of an apothecary bottle I had salvaged from my father’s medical office, changing the Latin of the original label to the Latin for ‘artificial tears.’ I became interested in drawing more of these bottles and started to collect them on eBay. Because I had long wanted a place to put away cherished values or to hide shameful thoughts, I discovered to my delight that the Greek word ΑΠΟΘΗΚΗ, from which our word ‘apothecary’ derives, means storehouse. This project followed.”

Lazy Afternoon (2011).
Lazy Afternoon (2011).

Regarding the installation at Wesleyan, Schorr also says that the hundreds of Wesleyan alumni who took his Drawing I class will remember a homework assignment involving cylindrical bottles or cans and their labels. The exhibition will continue on to the Mary Ryan Gallery in New York City in the spring.