Dance Before the Kill: Anna U Davis at Long View
Anna U. Davis accepted the challenge to fill the cavernous spaces of Long View Gallery on 9th Street and has accomplished it with brio. An awful lot of people can fit in that space, making it possible to see the work even though the opening last night of her new show was the clear destination of choice for DC artfolk.
For several years, Davis has been creating a cast of characters she calls Frocasians - people who transcend race. Up till now they have appeared in collages, often quite large, assembled from thousands of tiny slices of colored magazine pages. It is the kind of work that requires a patience, attention to detail and sheer level of manual dexterity that few of us possess. I know I sure don’t.
For the first time in this show, Davis has made ink drawings on paper, all in black in white. She tells us that the new work has been inspired by the pasodoble, Spanish dance music played in ballrooms and at bullfights, hence the title: “The Dance Before the Kill. ”And by God, that’s exactly what they look like.
The most intense of the drawings fill the entire sheet of paper with a grid of writhing, grimacing people, simultaneously pulling each other limb from limb while they grope and reach for each other, dancing and killing at the same time. It is an effect of violence and sexuality that calls to mind medieval depictions of the sufferings in hell. The black and white format and the use of line drawing, allows the viewer to see the action more clearly and somehow enhances the immediacy of the experience, to my eye at least.
Nor are the collections of people randomly assembled for visual effect. There is a very specific story and an intention behind each. During the opening, a guy with a laptop followed Davis, recording some of the stories. I hope that Long View captures that for a kind of audio tour – or that they compile the stories in writing, because they add a great deal to the work.
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