Swedish artist Anna U. Davis and her husband Peter Davis
“THE DANCE BEFORE THE KILL,” a show featuring approximately 30 pen and ink drawings by Washington-based artist Anna U. Davis, will open June 3 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. N.W. This exhibition marks the first time that Davis has shown works on paper.
IN “The Dance before the Kill,” Davis continues her investigation of contemporary feminist concerns, this time giving form to the sexually charged hostilities that pervade both gender and race relations. Her new series adopts the pasodoble as a metaphor to contrast the fluidity of women’s roles with the aggressive, prideful posturing of paternal authority.
THE ARTIST VIEWS her exploration of a new medium as an exciting, personal challenge: “You have to think differently when you draw than you do when you paint. Both processes are detail-oriented; but, for me, drawing is a lot more about developing the figures and manipulating the negative space in an interesting way.”
DAVIS HAS translated the gray Frocasian characters of her celebrated, vibrant mixed media paintings into starkly black and white illustrations of entangled bodies. An amalgam of the terms Afro and Caucasian, Frocasian designates the artist’s construal of primitivism’s noble savage and symbolizes the utopist aim to transcend identity politics.
ON PAPER, however, these figures lose their uniformly gray hue, underscoring their cultural oppositions and differences in appearance. The distinct, flamboyant garb and historic facial expression of each character evoke the dance of the bullfight, as these attributes augment the dramatic tension between the sexes.
DAVIS, nevertheless, conveys the tenet of social parity through the symmetrical balance of her compositions. She defines feminism as the recognition of all persons as social equals without diminishing what differentiates one gender from another.
ONE OF HER drawings in “The Dance before the Kill” parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man.” Davis supplants the ideal male figure with the female form, critiquing the societal injunction that commands women to achieve “perfect” bodily proportions. Imparting the passion of the pasodoble, a swarm of frenzied men in their underwear envelops the central female character. Vying for the woman’s attention the male figures pull on the needs of the men. Moreover, the close-knit arrangement of the figures prompts the viewer to examine the libidinal underside of the social antagonism.
“I BEGIN each drawing by sketching out something that bothers me, and I end up making something that makes me feel good,” Davis explains. “My feminist stance comes out naturally in my work. All of the women represent different sides of me.”
About the Artist
“The Dance before the Kill” is Anna U. Davis’ first solo show and the second time that she has exhibited at Long View Gallery. Davis is a 2006 recipient of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Young Artist Grant. Her work has been exhibited at numerous venues throughout the Washington metro area and is also in the private collections of Dorothy Lichtenstein. She earned her BA in Studio Art from the University of the District of Columbia in 2002. Born in Sweden, Davis moved to the United States in 1998 and currently resides and works in Washington, D.C.
About the Gallery
Reopened in October 2009 as an art and event space, Long View Gallery concurrently highlights the talent of Washington-based artists and operates as a premier venue for private functions. The gallery mostly exhibits contemporary figural painting by both midcareer and emerging artists, but has recently launched a corporate art consultancy branch whose divers portfolio runs the gamut of abstract sculpture to photography. In the summer of 2010, the gallery will unveil an outdoor sculpture courtyard that faces historic Blagden Alley.
Long View Gallery is located at 1234 9th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Tel. 202-232-4788. Business hours are Wednesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sundays 12 noon-5 p.m.; and by appointment. www.longviewgallery.com.