Artist Mini Davis in his workspace (Alison Gillmor)
A terrific new show by Winnipeg artist Mini Davis opens tonight at Golden City Fine Art, a hole-in-the-wall gallery in Chinatown known for interesting, offbeat programming.
Davis's raffish, crowded, comic works often combine pop culture references with scrawled, misspelled text. They can look anarchic and offhand, as if he just threw them together. (In one work, he writes, "I could do better than this, but I'm in a hurry, I got so many ideas.") But Davis, who graduated from the University of Manitoba's School of Art in 1983, actually has incredible control. Some of his mid-sized chalk pieces, in which he works with a constrained palette and really tight composition, just cook.
His references are omnivorous: 18th-century English satire, 1920s German Expressionism, popular music (what he calls "Kool Bands,"), family life ("We need milk,"), tabloid mags.
One piece was inspired by the bittersweet experience of seeing the movie American Graffiti for the second time since its original release. (In a deliberately unpoetic lament for lost youth, Davis sketches one of the characters and then writes underneath: "Again, this doesn't really look like the guy in the movie, which incidentally is Harrison Ford, whom I saw RECENTLY on the cover of PEOPLE magazine, and Boy, is he ever ugly now.")
Another piece, a small, clever painted-wood reconstruction of a stage, dreams up a scene from grand opera that is incongruously interrupted by the "God-like" David Yow, noise rock singer for Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard, getting ready to stage-dive into the crowd.
The back of "My Ever Changing Moods" by Mini Davis (Alison Gillmor)
Many of these pieces have a hi-low, funny-fierce kick. Just as important is Davis's process, which he often describes in hilarious detail on the backs of his canvases, On one work, he lists his materials as "Tinted Acrylics, Spruce, Beer, Cigars, Music, My Basement, My Drums, My Family." Clearly, a lot goes into Davis's art.