Born 1974, Pittsburg
Lives and works in Los Angeles
Utilising word and image, Gerald Davis retells us stories from his boyhood and prepubescent years. Sexual obsession, real and imagined girlfriends, lewd mis-adventure, unrealised desire and memories from school are all retold with a calm lucidity. Despite often being explicit and rather crude in content, there is a knowing refinement to the flat clean surfaces of his paintings. The cartooning of these stories offers us a new perspective forcing us not so much to judge as to acknowledge and consider.
In the Prayer of the Boy Artist, 2004 triptych we see the boy artist, head tilted, studiously copying an image from the pages of a magazine. This innocent and boyish obsession is then posited against another more adolescent in nature. His desires and imagined sexual adventures are neatly described in school boy handwriting and crude collage. Alongside this the unspoken, un-met cravings emerge from the canvas, soon to fall back into dissolution Positioned together in this way these seemingly differing targets of obsession are linked together; the wish fulfilment has the same structure, just the drive and locus has shifted.
Amongst these personal memories and obsessions are more common ones that are jointly remembered. In Suicide (Green), 2005 Kurt Cobain’s dead body is depicted lifeless, shotgun in hand. As grotesque as this is, the clean and accurate cartoon rendering as well as the limited green palette uplifts the actual horror of such a scene to a level of near pageantry. Details like Cobain’s converse trainers, his plaid shirt, the pattern on the floor, the beer can, are all minutely obsessed over creating the stuff of urban legend, facts and myths ghoulishly traded. Gerald Davis has reconstructed the scene from these details and memories; serving as a distraction, essentially displacing the sad truth of the situation.
In as much as Davis is willing to open us his past for us and be humiliated, he’s also opening up a common ground of shared experience to which we all can relate. As embarrassing, cringeworthy and grotesque the subject matter is, it’s also comic, honest and deeply human.