We mourn the loss of an extraordinary artist and friend on October 23, to lung cancer. David lived in Manhattan after his graduation from Carnegie Mellon University (1976), but spent the last 30-some years in San Francisco. His earlier work tended towards boxes whose interiors contained puns, surreal scenarios and characters animated by handmade pullies and crankshafts. Larger constructions included full-scale beasts whose bellies displayed vitrines of similarly curious mise-en-scene. Later work became increasingly large, architectural and intricate: "Movie Palace" and "MVSEVM" belong to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, others are in private collections. The obsessive craftsmanship of Beck's work includes handcrafted moving parts, illuminations, hidden elements and working musical instruments. Recent pieces draw from (and add to) the natural world with the invention of insects, mammals, and aquatic creatures of organic beauty whose exposed and precisely-wrought mechanisms create a parallel work of aesthetic enchantment. The charmingly inelegant Dodo bird served David as a lifelong muse. David played saxophone and composed with the bassist, Bill Noertker, as The Melanchoholics. David was a unique personality: understated, charming, reserved, watchful and unendingly curious; erudite yet drawn towards the naive; he was a sly joke-teller with a bone-dry sense of humor, a bane to tele-marketers, an avid flea market shopper and an incredibly warm and caring friend. He leaves a girlfriend, Sidney Russell and her family, a birth family, a chosen family, and a brilliant constellation of devoted friends somehow lucky or deserving enough to have earned his friendship, feeling bereft of him already.
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Published by New York Times on Oct. 28, 2018.