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Press Release

Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present Mel Davis: Meet Me in the Usual Place. On view in conjunction with exhibitions of videos by Jeremy Blake and paintings by Miriam Schapiro, a reception will be held at the gallery on November 4, 2017 from 4-7pm.

Mel Davis’s paintings catch the eye with their vitality and sustain that interest through complex harmonies of tone, style, and reference. The Berkeley-based painter collages varied styles of mark-making into new compositions: long thin brush strokes, hard-edged black zig-zags, and bold Matisse-like flora are set in dialogue. In Davis’s newest paintings, references to art history and events in her personal life commingle: The tablecloth in Bonnard’s The Red Checkered Tablecloth (1910) appears as the backdrop of Lilies, 2017, and a recent obsession with finding the right curtains for her home led her to paint Curtains, 2017.

The merging and mirroring of art historical references and direct experiences is demonstrated by the bifurcation of the picture plane into diagonal or vertical halves in Davis’s recent works. This gesture is akin to Barnett Newman’s famous “zips” in which the artist painted a single line down the middle of an otherwise monochromatic canvas. By splitting the composition, Davis activates the two halves, offering alternate perspectives. Aesthetic tensions that arise on one side play out on the other. Davis outlines the juxtapositions in her paintings this way: “Themes in the work can be described as interior/exterior. I use repetition, collage and drawing to allow intuition and mystery to present itself. I like when a painting can have many speeds, different vantage points, and several modes of thinking at once.”

Davis’s paintings offer a proposition about painting as a medium, its history, materials, and processes. While she is deeply involved in conversations internal to the medium, her work is not academic. Instead, it is generous and expansive. As the late poet and art critic Bill Berkson wrote, “Davis is a serious artist, as serious about the pleasure her work communicates as about distinguishing herself, and the terms of her belief in painting as an art, within it.”

Mel Davis was born in Montréal, Quebec. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University, Montréal, Quebec in 1999, attended Slade School of Fine Art, University of London, UK in 2002, and received a Master of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA in 2005. Her work has been included in thematic exhibitions such as Between Land and Sky, Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto, Canada (2016); This Cool, Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA (2010); New American Talent 24, Arthouse, Austin, TX (2009); and Close Calls, Headland Center For The Arts, Sausalito, CA (2008). Davis has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant (2016); The Canada Council for the Arts Grant (2008); and the Irene Pijoan Memorial Award for Painting (2004).