The work of NY-based artist Damien Davis (b. 1984) explores historical representations of Blackness, seeking to unpack the visual language of cultures and investigate how society codes, decodes, and recodes representations of race through craft, design and digital modes of production. Composed of glyphic shapes, patterns, and images, the works interact in prismatic ways, creating ever-shifting relationships to meaning, brokering new associations and conversations about how identity is performed in culture.
Hard Line Fade is itself a phrase of interwoven terms originating out of brown and black culture, specifically hair salons. ‘”Fade” itself references a hairstyle typified by a tight taper of the hair towards the ear, progressing from below a “hard line,” or deep part line. “To fade” has an older meaning as well, meaning to punish, beat, or conquer another, as in “Catch my fade.” For this show, Davis presents a new collection of works across varieties of scale from his Blackamoors Collages series, pieces in which base patterns of carefully inlaid laser-cut acrylic activate a superimposed level of laser-cut figures of significant cultural weight, composed again of acrylic, connected by a variety of metallic screws, bolts, and nuts. The aesthetic of these new works conflates the pattern language of African textiles with the visual language of race as expressed in contemporary American political culture. The Blackamoors Collages series began for Davis as an investigation into the ornamental Blackamoor sculptures ubiquitous throughout Italy from the 17th century forward, in which African males are depicted in subservient or exoticized form. Originally accomplished through the use of shapes like candelabras, cowrie shells, and oversized lips, over time the series has expanded to incorporate iconography from contemporary culture and political discourse. This is Davis’s first show in Los Angeles and his first with Charlie James Gallery.