For more than two decades, Mexican artist Jose Dávila, born in 1974, has been exploring the legacy of geometric abstraction, constructivism and minimal art. Drawing on artists and architects such as Luis Barragán, Josef Albers, Donald Judd, Richard Serra and Tony Smith, his work is both a critique of and an homage to the avant-garde art and architecture of the 20th century.
His sculptures, installations and photographic works are always characterised by a tension between opposing forces. Dávila, who studied architecture, creates sculptures that incorporate principles of design and physics as well as references to art history. He uses unconventional, organic, or industrial materials that he strings together, stacks, stretches or balances. He also creates forms into which he cuts geometric voids – always with a hint of humour and melancholy. For example, in his untitled series of 2018, which was acquired for the Deutsche Bank Collection at Frieze New York in 2022, the contours of neon works by the American light artist Dan Flavin appear as cut-out spaces.
Exploring how modernism still shapes our worldview
He also explores how non-objective, geometric abstraction has shaped public spaces and our perception; how modernist movements have been translated, appropriated and repeatedly reinvented, or even forgotten. His work often appropriates or interprets famous sculptures or architecture. In 2016, for example, he referenced and "deconstructed" Max Bill's marble sculpture "Kontinuität" (Continuity) in front of the Deutsche Bank Towers in Frankfurt with his work "Principle of Understanding", which consists of two interlocking "circles".
Dávila, who studied architecture, is interested not only in formal issues but also in the environments in which iconic modern artworks are installed. In some of his earlier works, he appropriated forms and ideas only to vary and develop them. In his more recent works, one sees a renaissance of sculptural possibilities, reflected and reimplemented in a very contemporary way.
About this article series
This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.
Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture
Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.
Main image: Jose Dávila Portrait © Agustín Arce, Courtesy: Sean Kelly
Deutsche Bank Art & Culture