David True was born in Marietta, Ohio, in 1942. He studied at Ohio University, receiving his BFA in 1966 and his MFA in 1967. True gained recognition in the landmark exhibition “New Image Painting” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1977. A forerunner in diverging from minimal art into a new form of figuration, True created an oeuvre that varies in subject matter but is united in what Art in America identified in 1988 as “a sense of disequilibrium.”
True depicts humans and nature in his art in symbolic ways. He is primarily a painter, and also works with acrylic and ink on paper with washes, stenciled images, and vibrant colors. His imagery points to abstract concepts and emotions that are verbally inexpressible, demanding a search for meaning and attention. John Yau reconciled the ostensible contradiction between style and concept in True’s work in Artforum in February of 1983: “By stylizing everything, True emotionally distances the viewer. The paintings pivot between desire and its impossibility. They are emotional pendulums of a sort, unable to stop swinging between these two states.”
At Crown Point Press, many of True’s prints have paradoxical titles such as “Cut Secure,” “Lifting Descent,” and Cold Romance,” affirming the imbalance and contradiction that his work embodies. His art, often colorful, contains universal human truths, questions, and struggles. Many critics have acknowledged the psychological underpinnings of True’s images. Arts magazine, March 1989, associated his work with “the subconscious – things floating in and out of focus without the objective will of reasoning.” Gerrit Henry articulated this in Print Collector’s Newsletter, September 1985: “[True’s] work has been described as ‘visionary,’ but it is a highly visceral vision.”
True received National Endowments for the Arts fellowships in painting in 1983 and 1993. He showed in the Venice Biennale in 1984 and his paintings are in numerous permanent museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, Yale University, Cornell University, the Walker Art Center, and the Henie-Onstad Art Center in Norway. True lives and works in New York and teaches at Cooper Union.
-Sophie Kovel, Crown Point Press