Rawson Projects is pleased to announce the second installment of A Process Series, five mini-exhibitions that invite each artist to transform the gallery space in order to present and explore the inspiration behind their most recent work.
Rawson Projects: When you were approached to participate in the exhibition what were your initial reactions?
Davina Semo: I was touched and impressed that you invited me to make an exhibition about a side project, or about something that inspires me, and that you suggested two of the images on my wall as a starting point, because it signified to me that after leaving my studio, you spent time thinking about our discussions and the extra materials around my studio. I admit that you approached me to do this show during a period when I’ve been questioning the extent to which the thoughts behind my work are important to the work itself, and if they are important, what are some strategies I can use to try and foreground the ideas. I’m not a mind reader, and I’m speaking generally, so please apply all disclaimers and exceptions, but increasingly I have the sense that people are cramming studio visits into their already impossible schedules, and it’s hard for me to gauge how much is really shared during a visit. Studio visits are not unique in this way, the increasing degree to which the art world is acquiescing to being a community that embraces the massive circulation of reductive information is unsettling. Paradoxically, it seems that because people are so eager to learn about what many artists are making—which I will describe as an affirming phenomenon—the experience of sharing my work with someone can turn into a frustrating setup, wherein I feel pressure to explain my work in the quickest and most succinct way. I’m afraid the risk here is that the ideas behind the work are either outright ignored, or are passed over because of time constraints. Amidst these thoughts, being asked to make an exhibition that focuses on a side project or inspirational materials is welcome. Also: I’ve never been asked to do a solo project quite like this, organized around something besides my sculptures themselves.
RP: What is the relationship of the exhibition to your larger body of work?
DS: This exhibition begins with two photographs of an interrogation room in Guantanamo. These photographs are a somewhat random jumping off point for this exhibition, because I don’t work directly from sources, and it is not these images specifically that inspired the work in this exhibition. Rather, I’m showing sculptures and objects that I’ve been working on in my studio anyway, but selecting the pieces using these two photographs as an organizing aura for the exhibition.
RP: Did you find the idea of having the freedom to show something that was “inspirational” or unrelated to your primary studio practice challenging?
DS: I don’t find the exercise of organizing the exhibition as challenging as I find the mental hurdle of moving past my anxieties about people reading my work through an overly narrow, politicized lens. Generally speaking, I’m a big reader, and news junkie, and by revealing the source images I’m using to organize the exhibition, I’m afraid that people might read my works as illustrative of the literal and affective worlds pictured in the photographs. I don’t understand there to be a 1:1 relationship between an idea and an artwork, and I see my work as more of an intuitive distillation of many feelings and thoughts and experiences.
Davina Semo has had recent solo exhibitions at Ribordy Contemporary, Geneva, Marlborough Chelsea, New York, and White Flag Library, St. Louis. Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions both in the United States and abroad such as Cemeterium at Emerson Dorsh Gallery, Miami, curated by Regina Rex, and Another, Once Again, Many Times More at Martos Gallery, New York. Semo has work included in an upcoming exhibition at U.S. Blues, Brooklyn in February. She lives and works in New York City.