SEARCHING., a solo exhibition by 2022 Artist in Residence Damien Davis, is now on view at Project for Empty Space through April 8. Set within the confines of a darkened gallery, Davis’ solo project probes the multiple social connotations of “searching.” These interpretations include notions of collective exploration, from universal questioning to the intimacy of personal and interior probing. Created from cascading laser-cut fluorescent acrylic, the works in the exhibition physically and conceptually layer experiences pertinent to the Black and QTPOC American experience. The artist’s labyrinthine reflections on the implications of police surveillance/home invasion/’security’, intimacy/sex/queerness/Black precarity, and loneliness/darkness/violence/harm are embedded within each work.
Shrouded in a cocoon of the blacked-out gallery, the pieces in SEARCHING. possess a quiet glow that requires the audience’s participation to illuminate. Upon entering the eerily silent arena where the works are hung, viewers are given a flashlight to navigate the space with. As they conduct their own “forensic search” by blacklight artworks emerge, floating in the isolation of [B]lack space—beautiful, stoic, and somehow lonely. Inspired by the long history of police searches in Black homes and domestic spaces, the artist invites the viewer to conduct their own “forensic search”. Blooming under the transformative glare of the blacklights, colors and shapes radiate and pulsate with neon life, an effect both beckoning and toxic.
SEARCHING. maintains Davis’ practice of incorporating humor and innocuousness. His works contain familiar motifs including, but not limited to, afropicks, figures in profile wearing cap crowns, watch gears, rocket ships, butt plugs, dildos, and West African masks. Multiple entendres are embedded within his playfulness: fear, loathing, anxiety, and desire. Revealed under the ultraviolet glow of the blacklight, his shapes are satisfyingly clean-cut, bright, and tactile.
Project for Empty Space is open from Wednesday-Saturday, and by appointment.