Robert Davis: 1976
Curated by Rashid Johnson

January 11 — February 15, 2018
Opening reception: Thursday, January 11, 6-8PM                                                                                                                                           

James Baldwin, Jaws, and Jerry Smith, 2017 Graphite on paper 8.5 x 11 inches each Installation view, Luce Gallery, Torino, Italy, 2017.  Image courtesy of Luce Gallery.

James Baldwin, Jaws, and Jerry Smith, 2017
Graphite on paper
8.5 x 11 inches each
Installation view, Luce Gallery, Torino, Italy, 2017. 
Image courtesy of Luce Gallery.

CUE Art Foundation is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Robert Davis, curated by Rashid Johnson. Titled 1976, the exhibition features a series of graphite-on-paper drawings and hand-carved wood sculptures. Collectively, these works form a portrait of the people and artifacts that shaped the world in which the artist grew up, in 1970s Virginia. Johnson notes, “Davis, through both drawing and sculpture, forces the audience to participate in an often-awkward game of ‘name that person, place, or thing’… [his] references allow us an unlimited window into the artist’s thinking around his childhood, politics, and pop culture, as well as an understanding of how he sees time.”

Untitled Figure, 2017 Pine, steel and graphite 66 x 16 x 16 inches Image courtesy of Luce Gallery.

Untitled Figure, 2017
Pine, steel and graphite
66 x 16 x 16 inches
Image courtesy of Luce Gallery.

Spurred by conversations with a friend’s five-year-old son, Davis’s project grew out of a Google image search of 70s ephemera. Appropriated from his search results, the subjects of Davis’s graphite drawings are both generic and deeply personal, representative of formative experiences, meticulously re-created in pencil and imbued with nostalgia. Some drawings depict subjects that directly inhabit Davis’s childhood memories, such as the Ford F-150 flatbed truck his grandfather drove. Others, like a portrait of artist Hannah Wilke, represent figures and objects that Davis discovered in adulthood. 

While the exhibition’s imagery focuses on the era of Davis’s youth, his project is less a recreation of childhood than an exploration of the early influences that helped to shape his adult aesthetic sensibility. For Davis, each work “acts as a kind of reliquary for an intense memory that profoundly influenced [his] understanding and aesthetics.” Davis’s sculptures, in particular, capture the aesthetics of the era; totem-like with rounded, anthropomorphic features, the wood forms echo 1970s design, with graphite patterns borrowed from 70s wallpaper.

Robert Davis was born in 1970 in Norfolk, Virginia. He graduated from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1997 with a degree in painting. His work has been exhibited both internationally and in the U.S. It has been included in exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen, Magdeburg; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; Sommer Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv; Luce Gallery, Turin; Rental Gallery, Long Island; and Untitled Gallery, New York. Davis currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Rashid Johnson was born in Chicago in 1977. He received his BA in photography from Columbia College in Chicago and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2003-2004. Recent solo exhibitions include Stranger, Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, England (2017); Hail We Now Sing Joy, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO (2017); Fly Away, Hauser & Wirth, New York, NY (2016); Within Our Gates, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2016); Blocks, High Line Art, New York, NY (2015); Anxious Men, The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2015); Three Rooms, Kunsthalle Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland (2015); Magic Numbers, George Economou Collection, Athens, Greece (2014); New Growth, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO (2014); The Gathering, Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland (2013); New Growth, Ballroom Marfa, Marfa, TX (2013); Shelter, South London Gallery, London, England (2012); Rumble, Hauser & Wirth, New York, NY (2012), and the major touring exhibition Message to Our Folks, which opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (2012) and travelled to Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL (2012); High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA (2012); and Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO (2013).

The exhibition is accompanied by a 32-page color catalogue, with texts by The exhibition is accompanied by a 32-page color catalogue, with texts by Robert Davis, Rashid Johnson, and Kate Messinger. The catalogue is available online, and free of charge to gallery visitors. For more information please contact Programs Director Shona Masarin-Hurst at shona@cueartfoundation.org.

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Catalogue essay: Drawing Memory by Kate Messinger