A page from the artist’s sixth-grade diary. Wood. Wire. Fur from a ladies vintage hat. A twenty-milligram Prozac tablet. These are some of the materials Davis uses in “Legacy of Loneliness,” and they are a good starting point for understanding how the show responds to the historical treatment of female artists. The Chicago-based artist plunders the detritus of life for her pieces, particularly her sculptural assemblages. Of course, women’s art has historically been associated with domesticity, as many of these materials suggest. In fact, Davis was part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s 2013 exhibition “Homebodies,” which explored the home as a site for art-making. But the School of the Art Institute assistant professor is also letting us in on the joke; she knows that we know what she’s referencing.
Large graphite drawings on Stonehenge paper hang in the gallery’s back room. These works quite literally encompass art history, as in the triptych, “A Concise History of Modern Sculpture,” which includes every sculpture in Sir Herbert Read’s 1964 book of the same name. The drawings are busy—the artist is trying to fit as much information as possible on each page.
Much of the rest of the exhibit consists of “wall gems,” small, sculptural assemblages clustered in the main gallery, and other installation-like work that draws attention to the more masculine and authoritative aspects of art history. “My Bed,”a 1960s-style circular Italian bed covered in stones, and pieces such as the aforementioned graphite drawings seem to ask how an artist like Davis fits into the art world. In “Box of Burden,” wood, leather, a satin box and Xeroxes of a photo of Chris Burden made by Davis in 1993 work together to bring a touch of femininity to the hyper-masculine artist.
In a drawing titled “All of the Artists in Carola Giedion-Welcker’s Contemporary Sculpture,” Davis sketches the faces of the artists in the named 1954 book. Most of the faces looking out from it are of men. Davis’ show slyly critiques the canon while forging a more exciting future for sculpture, allowing more space for experimentation and inclusion. (Kerry Cardoza)
Through October 24 at Threewalls, 119 North Peoria
Elliot Josephine Leila Reichert is a curator, critic and editor. She is the inaugural Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University. She was formerly Curatorial Fellow at the Chicago Artists Coalition, Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University.