Davis Rhodes is a New York-based painter, best known for his unusual stripped down paintings, made out of enamel, polyester film and plastic sheet, and his foamboard monolithic panels and vinyl drapes on the walls. Using these mediums, he reproduces symbols derived from the visual setting of the city – posters, banners, and flyers.
Rhodes was born in 1983 in Victoria, Canada. He received his BA from Vassar College in 2005, and MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in 2007.
Davis Rhodes’ multimedia works appropriate and manipulate images from commercial advertisements, in a critical statement about the illusions and artifice of consumer culture. He picks these images from popular and commonplace sources – like hip hop posters, neon signs, and store awnings – and reduces them to unrecognizably angular, abstract shapes, rendered in monochromatic color. Typically printed onto backing made from cheap materials, including foam core, photographic paper, Plexiglas, and vinyl, Rhodes is avoiding only the traditional stretched canvases.
While Rhodes’ earlier work referenced advertising and urban signage, more recent paintings admit this genealogy but deny viewers the simple pleasure of recognition, playing on the tension of an internal and external space. Quietly and concisely, Davis Rhodes tweaks perception using his ephemeral hardedge abstractions, where industrially produced materials lean on the wall, lightweight but heavy with presence. Large freestanding folded boards seem almost ominous, while others, leaning against the walls, give the impression of fragility. Referring to his works as not being a minimalist exercise but rather radical transformation of the materials he is working with, Rhodes describes the feeling in the room as ‘total freedom from hierarchy, alienation or the pressure of identity.’
The shiny, achromatic panels display a proficiency in the visual languages of minimal and post-minimalism, and yet their imperfections – drips, cracks, warps – coupled with their unpretentious material presence deny fluency, imploring the viewer to look elsewhere for these paintings’ similarities. The viewer’s ground becomes as uncertain as that of the artwork he confronts, giving those simplistic pieces of latex and enamel on foamcore his own inner meaning. Rhodes wants his viewers to feel disorientation, to ‘not know where to stand or how to organize themselves from any fixed point in relation to the effects of the work.’
Davis Rhodes has been exhibiting his paintings since 2006, and had numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including shows at the Team Gallery, Grand Street and at the Office Baroque Gallery.