April 9, 2024
3 minute read

Denying Gravity: Woods Davy and the Assembly of Stones

Woods Davy (American, born 1949), Cantamar 11/11/16, 2016. Stone on granite base, 41 x 41 x 22 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Bob and Ann Myers. Photo by Alan Shaffer. 

Sacramento, Ca., April 9, 2024 — The Crocker Art Museum is pleased to announce Denying Gravity: Woods Davy and the Assembly of Stones, an exhibition that brings together 7 of the artist’s large works in stone and 2 in dead coral, on view from April 14 through August 11, 2024.  

Known for playing against expectations and gravitational force as we know it, Davy’s stone and coral sculptures seem to effortlessly float like clouds, rising heavenward in assemblies that evoke a sense of serenity and eternity despite their precarious balance. The sculptures testify to his concerns as an environmentalist and, in the case of the works in coral, the impact that climate change is having on the world.  

“Woods Davy’s sculptures simultaneously elicit a sense of wonder and calm—he uses familiar, natural materials in unexpected, and almost incredible ways. His work is steeped in the Pacific Coast, and yet its impact and resonance are not at all defined by a single location. We are thrilled to present his work to Crocker visitors,” said Lial A. Jones, Mort and Marcy Friedman, Director & CEO, Crocker Art Museum.  

Today based in Venice, California, but originally from Washington, D.C., Davy moved to San Francisco after graduate school. A few years later, he relocated to Los Angeles. His work at the time was large, linear, and composed of welded steel. Davy then began adding natural elements to these industrial-looking sculptures, which humanized them and the spaces they inhabited while simultaneously challenging expectations through their juxtaposition. He worked with this concept for many years until the stones began to take on a life of their own, his process becoming improvisational rather than preplanned.  

“It was always a collaboration; the stones told me what to do, I listened, and made my moves. They started to float, creating a feeling of weightlessness despite their heavy nature. The emotional impact of this denial of gravity and material identity was mesmerizing. They held my stare, and I felt a euphoric sense of tranquility. Emotion, as aesthetic experience, began to transcend form. For me, there is a calm, magical space within these works beyond gravity and the expectations of the natural world. Today, that open space in the middle – that entrance – is where I live.” -Woods Davy 

Davy began his Cantamar series of floating stones in 1994. He travels the Pacific Coast and elsewhere to source his stones. As their name suggests, many of them come from Cantamar, a small town in Mexico, the translation being “song of the sea.” Choosing his stones carefully, he combs the shoreline and shallow water for those that have been rounded and smoothed by the ocean’s tumbling effects, aiming to find perfect sizes and shapes that can take their place among the others and become integral to the whole. In combination, the stones unfurl like the waves that shaped them, the results unfolding in a narrative that is at once natural and handwrought, ancient and new.  

Displayed in a largely glass-walled gallery filled with natural light, Davy’s pieces will be backed by a canopy of trees, the sculptures engaging in a dialogue among themselves and with the natural environment beyond gallery walls. 

The exhibition is curated by Scott A. Shields, PhD, Ted and Melza Barr Chief Curator & Associate Director of the Crocker Art Museum. A monograph of the artist's work, Woods Davy, written by Shana Nys Dambrot, is available for purchase in the Crocker Museum Store.