Cincinnati-based artist Curtis Davis blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture, alternating between totemic mixed-media assemblages and large scale panels. Davis’ mysterious abstractions conjure various interpretations, yet curious elements ground the viewer, - a recurring object or series of letters, white serpentine brushstrokes, or a wooden plank labeled “comet” - preventing one from getting completely lost in an endless game of free association.
Davis is exceptionally confident in the studio, working quickly and with great intention. Davis engages painting and sculpture in a matter-of-fact fashion as he gathers materials, as though eager to follow where the intuitive process will lead. In his often monochromatic working palette, he commands generous quantities of acrylic, mixing in tubs and cups. Every mark or pour is definitive and opaque, a creative process without hesitation.
Visionaries + Voices offers valuable insight into Davis’ studio practice:
"Many times a new daily batch of paintings requires that Curtis paint over the previous day’s finished work.This process results in stunning pieces that are immediate and visceral: Thick layers of paint conceal the history of painting underneath. By reworking each painting, Curtis builds up an impasto whose edges reveal the collective history of the piece. Remarkable, candy-like layered edges embody immense amounts of visual tension that is then released across the expansive surface of broad opaque shapes."
Curtis’ relationship with painting is one echoed by studio mate Kevin White, who shares an unspoken understanding about the painting process (both are primarily nonverbal); it isn’t a delicate or precious endeavor, but messy and abundant, covering every studio surface in the large area of V+V where they make work. Both of their works have the quality of a rugged handmade sign post - visual art objects, but created as though they serve some utilitarian purpose.
For White, paint is the vehicle through which he alters common objects through distinct, repetitive mark-making. In his sculptural work, Davis also obscures found materials in paint, but instead he relies more directly on its capacity to transform them. Encasing collections of diverse fabricated and natural objects in accumulating layers of paint - branches, chunks of concrete, frames, flower pots, or salvaged remnants of wood - these piles are systematically subjected to this over time until their function is ultimately sacrificed for solely formal concerns.
Jessica Stockholder discusses this existential understanding of painting during a conversation with Natasha Kurchanova, in reference to her installation at Art Basel in 2014:
You might say painting or picture-making holds my work together. Paint as material is more plastic and mobile than most materials – you can do a lot with it very quickly. Painting also proposes a fictive, illusionistic space that I employ to bump up against more literal experience of things in the world. Exploring the ways in which paint evokes fictive experience segues into the question of what each of us brings to perceiving the world. There is a world out there – we are in agreement about that most of the time – but how we perceive and make sense of it comes through the frame of ourselves – physical, psychological and intellectual. I draw awareness to this fact of our apprehension by setting up collisions between two proposals – one that is invented and the other that is literal. In both cases, there are questions to be raised about the nature of reality.
Curtis Davis has exhibited extensively in Cincinnati and was included in a recent group exhibition at Sorry We’re Closed in Brussels, Belgium.