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Carlton Davis at the District Gallery

“The Past Retooled; The Present Rebooted,” new and old works by artist, architect, and writer Carlton Davis

April 30 through June 12

District Gallery, 740 East Third Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

THE VERY LAST LUNCH, 2015, Black Grouper fish model mounted to green painted wooden box with three threaded bolts.  Attached to a 6” painted post above the box is an Edward Curtis original sepia print, “The Second Alternate Sacred Hat.”  Two Tibetan dorjes  (thunderbolts of enlightenment) project from the side of the box with a plumbing valve with plastic peanut.

The Art Lunch Regurgitated

The exhibit surveys 50 years of Carlton Davis’s art.  The 28 works in the show trace his interests in drawing, his experiments manipulating light and shadow through painted wire to create two-sided images, his homage to the long tradition of artists who worked in a variety of media and his use of print media and other ephemera.

In a recent interview, Davis said, “My art is the residue from the collision of concepts changed by knowledge, means, material, and action.  I love to explore visual thinking – to draw, to study the past masters, to play with ideas and different media — and to write and see what surprising results develop.  Old work is altered by new ideas.  New work is informed by old concepts.”

The earliest piece, a pastel drawing of the 6th Street Bridge in Downtown Los Angeles, shows Davis’s admiration for forms he found in the city, where he lived and worked during the 1980s and 1990s and developed his work approach.

The latest piece, “The Very Last Lunch,” is a reboot of the first art work by the artist 50 years ago when, while a student at Yale, he and another student, spoofing contemporary art, invented organic art – nailing a raw fish to a piece of plywood — which they submit to a college art show, only to be rejected. They then created the Salon de Refuse outside the exhibit hall, and discovered that their display of garbage was more popular than the accepted show.  The rebels’ exhibit was reported in the newspaper. An art historian said the students might be onto something avant garde; and for Davis, this began a life journey making art.

Other pieces in the show include two columns of painted window screens that depict palm trees in Davis’s characteristic style of paint daubs on both sides of screening and a composition in homage to Alfred Bierstadt, great 19th Century painter of the West, comprising five drawings mounted on burnt-wood boxes, updating the contemporary landscape.  The show includes three hangings that are re-worked traditional Chinese scrolls altered with over-drawing and the addition of contemporary images and poetry.

Davis, author of “The Art Dockuments – Tales of the Drive-by Art Gallery” which traces the history of his alternative gallery located in the loading in the loading dock of his studio, is also an architect with projects throughout the western US.

District Gallery is a project of Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space, a 501(c)(3) non-profit building an Arts District Center for the Arts.  More at

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