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Alonzo J. Davis’ career as an artist spans four decades. A native of Tuskegee, Alabama, Davis moved with his family to Los Angeles in his early teens. After acquiring an undergraduate degree at Pepperdine College he earned an MFA in Printmaking and Design at Otis Art Institute. Influenced early on by the assemblages, Davis soon took wing and began to experiment with a variety of mediums, techniques and themes. At the suggestion of artist and former professor, Charles White, Davis began to produce prints and paintings in series. While he was inspired by travel to Africa, the Caribbean and American Southwest—the colors and patterns of the Pacific Rim cultures also seeped into Davis’ artwork. During the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s, Davis’ involvement in the California mural movement culminated with the 1984 Olympic Murals project. His Eye on ’84 is one of ten murals on the walls of the downtown Los Angeles Harbor Freeway.
“My art choices and world views have been inspired by travel. Through travel, I seek influences, cultural centers, energies, new terrain and the power of both the spoken and unspoken. The magic of the Southwest United States, Brazil, Haiti and West Africa has penetrated my work. Southern California, my home for thirty years, has also had an indelible impact and the colors and rhythms of the Pacific Rim continue to infiltrate. In recent years, I have been creating works about social justice issues and the worsening climate crisis.”
“I make paintings manipulating words. I compel shapes to emerge out of those words and letterforms, commingling them in abstractions evoking my everyday sensibility. I look to elicit a eureka moment from seeing the commonplace de novo. I engage with the enigmatic, what catches me off-guard, what makes me smile, and what I encounter serendipitously. I aspire to paint abstractions exploiting ugly words, change how they are perceived, appropriate their voice and suspend their toxicity, however briefly. I believe a word’s meaning can be just a starting point, a way into the work but never the last word.
When making a painting I follow a process, exerting what control I can although I welcome the accident. I begin a painting with specific words, there is often a grid that keeps an order to the work, I alter the paint to make it workable to my ends, and through ongoing experimentation with materials I have worked out methods that serve as a roadmap of sorts. When the elements are combining and intersecting an endless number of shapes and patterns emerge and the words fade. Different words give birth to different shapes. I find those shapes and nurture them in my paintings.”