Jon Davis – The Relativist as Radical Skeptic
By Daniella Sforza
Jon Davis has come full circle in his overall body of work. Tracing his own particular trajectory through the use of images from found photos in his Lost Luggage Exhibit at the Vero Beach Museum, through the theatrical manner of juxtaposing images culled from the great masters, seen at his Constructs Exhibit during Burst Art Fair last season.
Davis’s work today fuses his ongoing fascination with anonymity and with the underpinnings of drama in his current exhibit, The Relativist, at Kvachnina opening November 10, 2012 and running through January 8, 2013.
He relates story, which speaks to the whole of our humanity’s samsara, that eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth. Davis recycles imagery- found, bought, borrowed or pinched- and renders reconstructed fragments on layers of glass in threedimensions: a theatrical stage where we are voyeurs, our interpretation reﬂecting back at us in the layered glass. Davis is a master, not of smoke and mirrors, but rather of the raw, naked truths that each of us beholds beneath the cloth of our daily lives.
His world seems more real, more visceral and at times more haunting than the originals he chooses to re-construct. Thomas Eakins’ 1875 Gross Clinic, a scandal in its day for the gore and melodrama depicted, resurfaces in Davis’ studio and emerges in a different light. As does Eakin’s Agnew Clinic, (1889), with physicians in sterile lab coats performing a mastectomy, Davis slips in a pin-up model, a chambermaid and other memorable characters to render Eakins Revisited, and we are there as witness just as the onlookers within these very paintings.
A radical skeptic, Davis sets a stage for the viewer’s mind to trigger from pure sensations resulting from the juxtaposition of images. I’m still glad you’re here, one of his “backlits,” reconﬁgures Andrew Wyeth’s Christine’s World (1948). Christine crawls up that tawny hill, not toward her house but rather in the shadow of the nude torso of a woman pointing a pistol. Christine Olson was paralyzed, a victim of polio; the naked woman brandishing her weapon, clearly a dominatrix. It is all very relative, really.
“Subject matter can become redundant, repetitive and the medium can at one point come to a head,” Davis has told me in his studio. “It can become like a crutch,” he reveals, which he says prompted him to seek his new images to use in his own language, or system upon which to reconstruct a vision.
Many of his own images began as a result of experimentation with the construction of six different cameras: all from wooden boxes and different antique brass lenses. “I wanted to take a picture of an object and shred it into fragments.” Davis then used the antique optic lenses to the full expression of that possibility, with works such as, You ain’t going to heaven or This is the cow everyone is hiding and this is the witch, where he lays them like bubbles on the surface glass to directly distort, or exaggerate or contrive the viewer’s experience.
Eakins, Duchamp, Botticelli, Wyeth, Muybridge and others are his cast who, populating his mind, have become framed within Davis’s keen disregard for context and high respect for the realms of alternative deﬁnitions that belong only in the eye of the beholder.