Art Out of Focus 

Walking through Zoning Out, oil painter Toby Davis's latest exhibition at Evermore Prints, is a bit like driving through downtown Boise at night and squinting through a rain-spattered windshield. That's not to say the experience is vaguely frustrating—instead, what Davis has translated onto canvas is exactly what you'd see on that moonlit trip, right down to the haloed streetlights and wavery outlines of umbrella-carrying pedestrians. While it takes skill to paint with clarity and precision, Zoning Out argues successfully that it requires just as much effort to create the illusion of detail hiding just behind a pane of fogged glass.

"Sometimes the most beautiful scenes are the ones that aren't perfectly focused," Davis wrote in an artist's statement. "They are abstract visions of good memories, lacking detail, but still holding the important aspects that make them memorable."

click to enlarge "Parkin'" is one of the paintings by Toby Davis on view at Evermore Prints. - COURTESY TOBY DAVIS, EVERMORE PRINTS
  • Courtesy Toby Davis, Evermore Prints
  • "Parkin'" is one of the paintings by Toby Davis on view at Evermore Prints.

With names like "Stopped at the Light" and "Hydroplane," Davis' works are unassuming, but still skewer the eye with their bursts of bright color, from electric oranges and reds to splashes of cool, untouchable teal. Some, like the 20-by-20-inch "Tailgater," are busy, with clustered points of while paint overlaying a color-block backdrop, while others are gentle, like the 8-by-8-inch "Unfocused No. 6," which features soft pastel hues and a single watery silhouette. Of the 20 pieces, only "Parkin'" seems captured through clear eyes, with awnings, street signs and lightposts clearly visible despite falling rain.

The oil paintings start at $200 apiece and are going fast, with five—including the vibrant "Unfocused No. 13" and "Unfocused No. 2"—already sold within a week of the April 4 opening of the exhibition. They and the rest of Davis' work will be on display through April, with special pricing throughout the show. Davis is based in Boise, so even if you miss Zoning Out, stop by Capitol Contemporary Gallery (or to see more of his meticulous land- and cityscapes.

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