Houston Dealer Barbara Davis Has an Eye for Spotting Future Stars. Here Are the 3 Artists She’s Watching Now
The dealer famously gave Julie Mehretu her first gallery show in the late 1990s.
If veteran Houston dealer Barbara Davis had a superpower, it would probably be spotting mid-career
artistic talent. Way back in the 1990s, she gave Julie Mehretu her first commercial gallery show, and she was one of the early advocates of Shahzia Sikander’s lavishly detailed miniatures. Davis will note that her eye is not for boom-and-bust speculation, but for artists who, in her words, “really have it—the skill, the creativity, and the intelligence.”
Sometimes there are decades between when Davis throws her support behind an artist and when others catch on. But her proudest moments still lie in these early discoveries, even though she has hosted numerous exhibitions by big-name artists, including Joseph Beuys, Kiki Smith, and Gilbert and George, in her 40 years running a gallery
With that in mind, we asked Davis to pick three artists who she believes have that it factor.
Barcelona-born conceptual photographer Miguel Soler-Roig recently completed a series that creatively reimagines scenes from his grandfather’s life. A renowned doctor from Barcelona, José Soler-Roig was also a patron of the arts and friendly with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Misia Sert. The doctor’s stories became a kind of family lore for younger Soler-Roig, whose photographs capture invented scenarios that show his friends and family portraying the likes of Tamara de Lempicka, Dalí, Peggy Guggenheim, and others.
“Soler-Roig lets himself be carried away by chains of affinities and temporal coincidences, letting captured light generate narratives…the actors assumed the roles and character identities to build the history for the artist, and thereby create a story of his own,” said Davis, “Using oral histories, writings, objects d’art, architecture, and constantly on-going conversations, he developed the project to portray a vision halfway between reality and fiction.” And, here’s an endorsement: Soler-Roig is currently collaborating on a project with Ai Wei Wei, details forthcoming,
Trinidad-born artist Nicole Awai’s multimedia works delve into her sense of identity and place, creating dimensional creations that reference Caribbean and American terrains, architecture, and the domestic sphere. Sometimes when figures appear in her images they seem to fall from above, like figures in paintings from Greek mythology. Printmaking remains at the core of her practice and often hints at map-making and map-reading, with all its cultural and ethnographic associations.
Davis thinks a much wider audience should be aware of Awai’s career. “Nicole has been working through these ideas in nuanced ways for decades,” Davis said. “Her works seem to awaken the viewer’s sensibility to issues that might otherwise be hidden.”
Greek artist Anna Mavromatis explores centuries-old traditions relating to the dressing of young girls and the ways in which these fashions conveyed information about class, familial wealth, and sexuality. Combining a variety of historic and contemporary photographic processes, elements of printmaking, and meticulous surface decoration, Mavromatis creates paper dresses that are at once alluring and haunting, calling to mind generations of girls whose destinies were in some ways preordained by their presentation.
“By transforming family heirloom linens into dresses that subsequently use as impressions, she realizes works that delicately echo the cruelty of their purpose,” Davis said.
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