Davis is best known for his paintings of African Americans that have a dreamy, unreal quality to them, despite their muted color palettes and touches of realist detail.
Although some of the figures that Davis painted were black, he didn’t consider his works political.
“If I’m making any statement,” he told Dazed in 2010, “it’s to just show black people in normal scenarios, where drugs and guns are nothing to do with it.”
Davis instead chose to describe his works as “instances where black aesthetics and modernist aesthetics collide.”
In 2012, for a show at James Harris Gallery, in Seattle, Davis did a series of paintings about reality television, titled “Savage Wilds.”
(Davis, who had also shown with Roberts & Tilton, was represented at the time he died by the Los Angeles gallery Papillion.)
The works, like many others by Davis, play on the division, or lack thereof, between life and art, and between true personalities and performed ones.
In one work, Jerry Springer is shown cautiously picking up a torn-off weave. Because Davis distorts Springer’s face, it becomes hard to tell whether the act is genuine or just for show.
In other works in the series, television logos are painted onto the bottom to make clear that what we are seeing are stills.