Meditation IV, 2014
graphite on paper
54 x 42 inches
Nes (from Infinity Series), 2016
hand-written text of graphite on paper
30 x 26 inches
After Sol Lewitt Sentences on Contemporary Art 1/35, 2016
oil stick applied with rubber stamp letters on silk-lined gampi paper
30 x 26 inches
Kenturah Davis creates portraits composed from written text. In this performative act, she strips away color and instead focuses on the construction of our personal and collective identities. Using text as a point of departure, she explores the fundamental role that language has in shaping how we understand ourselves and the world around us. By imbuing her work with the repetition of inspirational quotes, mantras and meditations, Davis awards her subjects with a complex, yet honest, backstory through an accessible lens. Davis states, “I see the drawings as a series of conversions where the subject has first been rendered with light through the photographic process, then carefully converted to text as I filter the photographic information through my eyes and hand… My first experimentations were composed with hand written text, some cursive some hand-printed. Following these early text drawings came further exploration using rubber stamp letters. In the way that the hand-written works engage with the history of penmanship and an individualized method of mark-making, the stamp drawings connect with industry, printmaking and a broader dissemination of information.”
The work from her Meditations Series, Meditation IV, uses a hand-written quote by poet Audre Lorde stating, “I am Deliberate and Afraid of Nothing”. The woman in the image appears in the Four Women mural she created in Ghana as part of a public art program commissioned by Alliance Francaise to commemorate International Women’s Day. The mural is titled, Four Women, after the Nina Simone song.
Davis is short-listed for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery's 2019 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Currently, she is a fellow at NXTHVN, founded by Titus Kaphar and Jonathan Brand, and a DAMLI fellow at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Upcoming exhibitions include a solo show at Jenkins Johnson Projects, NY and Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, curated by Essence Harden and Leigh Raiford at the California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA. Notably, Davis was commissioned by the Los Angeles Metro Rail to create a large-scale, site-specific work that will be permanently installed on the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line, opening in 2020. She was recently in the exhibition Block Party at Jenkins Johnson Projects in New York. She has also exhibited at the Robert and Frances Museum of Art, San Bernadino, CA; the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, Venice, Italy; Ucity Museum, Guangzhou, China; Torrance Art Museum, CA; Ian Potter Museum, Melbourne, Australia and the Yokohama Trienniale, Yokohama, Japan. In 2014, she was commissioned by Alliance Française Accra Mural series to commemorate International Women’s day. Davis’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, and Vice, among others. She graduated from the Yale School of Art with her MFA in 2018 and Occidental College, BFA.