The multimedia work of Los Angeles–based artist Karon Davis merges sculpture and theater in arresting tableaux that address such urgent issues as healthcare inequity, gun violence, systemic racism, and climate change. Drawing on the ceremonial process of ancient Egyptian mummification, she unevenly casts bodies in plaster, resulting in spectral figures that at once evoke death and transcendence. She takes up experiences both personal (the passing of her husband from cancer) and historical (Bobby Seale’s abuse during the trial of the Chicago 8 in 1969), fleshing them out to prevent their relegation to the ambiguousness of mythology. Departing from the prosaic realism of George Segal and the surreal fragmentations of Alina Szapocznikow, her figures are both melancholy and cathartic.
Born in Reno, Nevada, in 1977, Davis studied at the University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts (2001). The child of Broadway performers, she credits her late husband, the artist Noah Davis, for motivating her visual art practice. In 2012, the couple co-founded The Underground Museum in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. The arts and culture center brings museum-quality art experiences to diverse audiences for free. Recently, she mounted a solo exhibition at Jeffrey Deitch, New York (2021) and was featured in group exhibitions curated by Helen Molesworth at David Zwirner, London, and Jack Shainman Gallery: The School, Kinderhook (both 2021). Her work has been included in museum exhibitions at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle (2017); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (2017); and Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke (2018). Davis’s work resides in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, The Bunker, West Palm Beach; Pérez Art Museum Miami; and Rubell Museum, Miami. In 2017, she received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant.