L. A. Galerie Lothar Albrecht presents:
Paintings and works on paper
May 25 to July 21, 2007
You and your friends are cordially invited to the opening on Friday, May 25, from 7. p.m.
From the end of May till the end of July, L. A. Gallery Frankfurt, in cooperation with Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art in Melbourne, is showing works of the Chilean-Australian artist Juan Davila. Davila, born 1946 in Santiago de Chile, left his country after Pinochet seized power there. He has been living in Australia since 1974. Like Arturo Duclós, Gonzalo Díaz, and Eugenio Dittborn, Davila belongs to the Santiago School.
In his works produced since the 1970s, Davila seems to address a number of present-day questions, which are helpful to know trying to understand his complex, offensive, sometimes downright cruel works: Is modernity our antiquity? What is bare life? And: What now? Modernity, where the universal calls for freedom, equality and solidarity as well as the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century are complimentary, has not lost its allure. Its forms, hopes and visions, the discourses revolving around “culture” and “identity” live on, long past announcements of their imminent demise. The closure of this epoch continues to be a subject of debate. “It looks like we are both outside and inside modernity.” The second question, What is bare life? “is about the total vulnerability of human life. It concerns that part of our existence that no security precaution will ever be able to protect. But as in sexuality, total vulnerability and infinite lust can be disturbingly close to each other. Bare life contains an apocalyptic and unmistakably political dimension, which at its worst spells torture and the concentration camp. It cannot be reduced to this apocalyptic aspect, however, because there is a lyrical or even ecstatic quality to it too – a freedom towards new and unexpected opportunities.”1
Among the spectrum of possible reactions to modernity as an art epoch, Juan Davila’s work maintains an important position. In many of his paintings he refers to the icons of Classic Modernism and Pop Art; recently, the historical painting of the 19th century has also played a role in his works. His building in immediately recognizable parts of famous paintings into his collage-like works amounts to more than playing with the contents and implications of the quoted, fragmented and then newly combined model-pictures; Davila also aims at the mechanisms of the art market (consumerism being a recurrent theme in his works) and at the reception of certain artists and tendencies in the world of art dominated by the West, which he examines and places in front of a distorting mirror. Doing so, he is always also reflecting on his own position as a peripheral artist, who in an abominable way avails himself of pictures from all areas of visual communication, be it photography or film, pornography, advertising, or established works of art.
One significant element of Davila’s paintings and collages is his drawing from a wealth of pictures and motifs – some folkloristic, some archaic, some satirical – connected to his Latin American background. Worlds clash, out of which a peculiar imagery develops; it may be interpreted on a metaphorical level, although the sexualized or mutilated protagonists, offenders and victims of violence, can have such an immediate impact on the viewer that he or she will feel directly offended by the level of aggressiveness.
Davila not only aims at taking a stand on socio-political issues. His works cathartically point out and symbolize the traumas of societies marked by colonialism and violence which he has lived in. Davila translates the violence which he has experienced as existential into his own, also often violent imagery. In “Woomera” (2002-04) he calls for art to work against society’s refusal to face up to history and remembrance, and to expose the psychological forces driving these processes.2 He also addresses the question of What now? in his oeuvre, which can be read as a manifesto against consumerism and “over-intellectualism,” the only alternative being “aesthetic education.”