Before he died in an Amsterdam fire in 1977, at the age of 31, Donald Evans had created nearly 4,000 tiny paintings in the shape of postage stamps. It was a form of art he invented as a child, making up entire kingdoms with fanciful names and histories and then meticulously commemorating them with miniature paintings.
After a foray into Abstract Expressionism and a stint working for Richard Meier as an architectural designer, Evans "dropped out." Following his decision to move from New York to Amsterdam and turn his childhood preoccupation into a full-time art career, he had a number of one-person exhibitions in the Netherlands, Paris, London and the U.S., including those at the Stedelijk Museum and New York's Fischbach Gallery.
His work is a captivating fusion of childlike make-believe and adult expertise. His format allowed him to experiment with abstraction (a series of stamps based on the quilt patterns of the "Tropides Islanders" and tartans conceived by the "Antiquans") while exploring every possible image: landscape, architecture, portraiture, animals (penguins were a favorite), household items, fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers, dirigibles, dominoes, shells, boots, umbrellas--anything that struck his fancy. Evans chose his country of expatriation well, because his work, drawn in pencil or pen and gently tinted with watercolor, has the delicacy of touch and romantic perfection one often sees in Dutch tiles. It conveys a charming innocence; there's nothing cynical here, not even wry.
Instead what comes through is a certain exuberance. Evans loved cooking for friends, and this gusto is documented in a series of paintings of the country "Mangiare": views of "Lago Divinorosse" (the Lake of Red Wine), "S. Fagiolo in Olio" (the church of St. Haricot bean in oil) and "Castello Pisello" (Pea Castle), each overstamped "Zone Antipasto" when enemy "Antipasto" forces took over the territory. Then there's the principality of "Amis and Amants" (friends, and friends who are also lovers), a group of tropical islands named after various phases of love such as "Premiers Amours" (puppy love) and "L'Amour Perdu" (lost love).
No life, however, is without its downside, and Evans's adult work, like his childhood efforts, can be seen as a form of escapism, similar to the way outsider artists Henry Darger and Adolf Wolfli created their own imaginary worlds. The difference is that none of us would object to inhabiting the worlds Evans envisioned.
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COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group