9953 S Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
“I was always too gay for the punks and too punk for the gays.”
Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to present Macha Family Romance, an exhibition of paintings on paper by Vaginal Davis executed between 2017-2019. The show is exhibited alongside work by Cameron (1922-1995), sparking dialogue between the work of two legendary figures in the historic Los Angeles art scene.
Vaginal Davis got her start in the late 1970s in the Los Angeles queer and punk club scenes with “multiracial, maxi-gendered” performances. Davis’ often humorous yet socially critical work is considered groundbreaking in the history of queer culture in nearly every medium: music, performance, video, installation, and visual art.
The works on paper in Macha Family Romance are a concoction of beauty creams, tonics, oils, and varnishes, materials conventionally reserved for the body. Davis refers to them as ‘make-up paintings’ tying them to a ritual of transformation. Language related to witchcraft (elixirs, potions, magic) has often been used to describe the work, referencing histories of women outside the margins. Appropriately for an artist well-versed in performance, her choice of materials underscores the physical and theatrical aspects of creating the object. Davis layers her media in expressive marks over various found substrates—magazine pages, exhibition invitations, university stationery. The resulting painterly language of turbulent strokes, gestural lines, and smudgy wisps form complex portraits of oft-overlooked historical figures, always with an eye to feminist and queer narratives. As her godson artist Channing Hansen commented, “With her trusty make-up bag of tricks and her mystical medicinal potions, Ms. Davis performs acts of pure alchemy. Her auratic portraits cast a spell on the beholder.”
Davis' work is profoundly influenced by the architectural environments of her formative years, including the Watts Towers and the utopian Ramona Gardens public housing project, as she pays homage to the lives and histories of the underrepresented and underrecognized. Drawing upon a similar impulse to make visible the work of forgotten actors, performers, artists, and writers of the past, Davis’ tender portraits revive their names in our consciousness. Titled in reference to dancers, sapphic love scenes, and films of the 1920s and 30s, these paintings evidence her interest in and extensive knowledge of film, literature, and image making histories.
Vaginal Davis (born in Los Angeles) lives and works in Berlin. Davis’ work has been included in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago (2020), IL; the New Museum (2017), 80WSE (2016), Cooper Union (2015), Participant Inc. (2012, 2010), all in New York; National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest, Romania (2009); Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka, Croatia (2009); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA (2008); and Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2006), among many others. She has performed at the New Museum, New York, NY (2017); documenta 14, Kassel, Germany (2017); Lafayette Anticipations, Archives nationales, Paris (2017); Arsenal Institut für Film und Videokunst, Berlin (2017); GenderFest Athens, Greece (2017); Creative Time Summit, Washington, D.C. (2016); Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2016); Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (2015); Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, Scotland (2015); New York University, NY (2014); School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois (2013, 2020); Participant Inc., New York, NY (2012); Southbank Centre, London, UK (2012); The Getty Center as part of Pacific Standard Time, Los Angeles, CA (2012); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011); and Tate Modern, London (2011), among others.