Sidney Davidson has no intention of being an American hero. You will not find any capes, kitsch, self portraits, or American flags at this Friday’s exhibition, An American Hero. If this feels misleading, it’s meant to. The show’s poster, inspired by times the artist received uncomfortable responses regarding his work, sets the viewer up to experience his exhibition with a bit of humor, an acceptable level of uneasiness, and a few unanswered questions.
The show’s statement reads, “An illustration exhibition that uses visual metaphors to communicate ideas,” yet there is much more to be taken from this MFA thesis show. Spanning a wide range of political and social issues, Davidson’s subject matter isn’t meant to be revolutionary but relevant. The majority of his works carry elements of darkness, tension, humor and something unexpected.
In his piece “Interception of Resources”, the artist uses the familiar imagery of a garden hose to confront viewers with our own disillusionment around our natural resources as the hose bursts in a background of dying foliage.
Davidson illustrates a visual in Judge that could accompany any number of current commentaries on corruption and social injustice but also inspires thoughts of a political graphic novel just waiting to be written.
To create these illustrations, Davidson’s process starts with numerous sketches. Then he creates a digital mock up which becomes a guide to a hand-drawn image using a combination of pencil, dry brush, and ink washes. Finally, he moves back to digital for the color and refinement.
“Trump and Sanders” seems to embody the best of his process with its great economy of line and shadow and playfulness with tension, scale, and humor. I can’t help but wish “Trump and Sanders“, as well as a few other works, were scaled to a considerably larger format for one to better appreciate the technical skill and impact of the images.
Ironically, “Boxers” packs the least amount of punch among an array of work that asks something more of us. “Dentist”, where at first glance we are reminded we should all floss more, alludes to a larger and far more complex issue: the cheaper than water cola products that are being heavily marketed to children and communities in other countries that suffer from insufficient dental healthcare.
Again Davidson asks us to reflect with “Competent to Stand Trial?”, a piece on the mental health issues in our prisons. The artist quietly, yet cleverly, amplifies his intent using window blinds, a faceless patient (or a prisoner), and a tilted composition. I found myself coming away with questions rather than absolutes which left room for my own voice to join the conversation on the issues the artist asks us to consider.
Davidson states commercial art is not going to change the world, but I’m glad he’s created work that reminds us we need to.
An American Hero opens this Friday, May 27 from 6-9pm. This is the first official exhibition opening for Sulfur Studios Annex Gallery’s second floor space at 2301 Bull Street. Click here to see more of Sidney Davidson’s work.