© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vaughn Davis’s breakout show “Freestyle” examines the intersection of sculpture and painting

Vaughn Vaughn Davis's Sunset Hills, a ripped and orange canvas hangs from a white wall.
Provided by Philip Slein
Vaughn Davis, Sunset Hills, 2016, pigment on canvas, 80 x 58 inches

Updated Oct. 24 at 10:25 with additional media

Artist Vaughn Davis is an anomaly in the St. Louis commercial gallery scene. He’s young, local and exhibiting in a space usually reserved for more established artists: Philip Slein Gallery in the Central West End.

Jim Schmidt, who coordinates much of the gallery’s exhibits, said there was almost no doubt about showing the emerging artist’s work in their project space.

“It’s really hard to explain these things because, after looking at art seriously for 50 years, you get to a point where you react more than you can explain these things,” he said. “And my reaction was very strong to this.” The said the gallery owners, Philip Slein and Tom Bussman, quickly agreed.

Davis’ show is titled “Freestyle.” He grew up in St. Louis and is a senior at Webster University.  He draws  inspiration from European art history and African textiles. His art flirts with sculpture, painting and an edge of performance. The exhibited work will be made of canvas, torn from wedge boards – a structure used in ceramic work – to which the artist applied paint. 

“I get (told) a lot of the time that the work is beautiful, or that it’s very pretty work, but it's ripped and it’s torn and it’s mended back together and it’s been like beaten down and then pulled back up to a certain level. There are pieces missing but it’s still standing,” said Davis.

Vaughn Davis stands in front of one of his works, a red and blue shredded canvas.
Credit Provided by Vaughn Davis
Vaughn Davis stands in front of one of his works.

He’s been following this creative thread for only about a year and a half, but Schmidt says Davis' work is subtle but captivating.

“His touch is just the right touch and his sense of color and proportion is the right sense of color and proportion,” he said. 

The artist was shocked when Schmidt offered him the opportunity to exhibit at Philip Slein. Davis said he’s been acutely aware of area galleries for the past three or four years.

“I always walk past these galleries on the strip here [in the Central West End], and I’ve always wanted to see myself in a gallery like this,” Davis said. “When I got a call from Jim saying he wanted to put me into a show I was over the moon about it. You know I’m not sleeping at all until the work’s done.” 

Schmidt’s happy to have him on board. 

“This gallery very rarely shows younger people, student artists, but the work hit me so strongly,” he said.

Davis says his next round of work will explore similar techniques but with new approaches to scale and pattern.