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Jose Dávila 

Jose Dávila (b. 1974) received formal training in architecture at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudio Superiores de Occidente. Drawing on his training as an architect and his knowledge of art history, Dávila creates sculptural installations, photographic works and paintings that simultaneously emulate, critique, and pay homage to 20th century avant-garde art and architecture. Throughout his artistic career, Dávila’s practice has explored spatial occupation and the transitory nature of physical structures. Referencing artists and architects from Luis Barragán and Mathias Goeritz to Josef Albers and Donald Judd, Dávila’s work investigates the expanded possibilities of the modernist movement through its translation, appropriation, and reinvention.

Challenging conventional connotations and limitations of photography in today’s image driven society, Dávila’s cut-outs interrogate originality, appropriation, and the truth behind an image. Dávila began making cut-outs in 2008, an ongoing series in which he simultaneously pays homage to and critiques icons of 20th century art and architecture through acts of excision, physically removing the central subject from photographic reproductions of original works of art. With these works, Dávila investigates whether an artwork can be produced through a reductive rather than additive process. This technique is inspired by the Mexican folk-art tradition of papel picado or Cut-Paper, which Dávila applies to contemporary art to explore the importance of negative space. Dávila revisits Richard Prince’s series in which he photographed and enlarged widely recognized advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes featuring imagery of cowboys on horseback in iconographic American Western landscapes. Prince cropped the advertisements to remove any text and left the torn edges and tape as a reminder of their original context in mass-market magazines. This controversial practice raises questions about what constitutes an original work of art. Dávila’s photographs, similarly scaled at up to six feet high by eight feet wide, include the uneven edges and tape to pay homage to, and keep the conceptual and theoretical congruency of, the works referenced. Dávila takes the conversation a step further by removing the focal point of the image, transforming the scenes into a poetic discourse about the power of negative space. In his words, “By subtracting the main subject, I intend to compel the viewer to perform a creative act, because they have to somehow fill in that central image from their memory and imagination.” 

Dávila has presented solo exhibitions at the Museum Haus Konstruktiv, Zürich, Switzerland; the Dallas Contemporary, Texas; the Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City; and the Museo del Novecento, Florence, amongst others. His work is in the permanent collection of numerous institutions including the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City, Mexico; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain; Inhotim, Brumadinho, Brazil; the Perez Art Museum, Miami, Florida; the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, Buffalo, New York; the San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hamburg Kunsthalle, Hamburg; the Zabludowicz Collection, London; and the Museum of Modern Art, Luxembourg. Dávila was the winner of the 2016 BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art’s New Annual Artists’ Award, the 2014 EFG ArtNexus Latin America Art Award, and has been the recipient of support from the Andy Warhol Foundation, a Kunstwerke residency in Berlin, and the National Grant for young artists by the Mexican Arts Council (FONCA) in 2000. In 2022, Hatje Cantz published a major monograph illustrating the past twenty years of Davila’s practice.

Dávila currently lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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