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Jose Dávila

Mexican, born 1974

Image courtesy of Casey Kaplan Gallery, New York. © 2011 Jose Dávila

Topologies of Memory, 2011

Set of ten archival pigment inkjet prints on paper
30 1/2 x 104 1/2 inches (77.5 x 265.4 cm) overall
Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, 2012

Born in 1974 amidst the booming sprawl of Guadalajara, the second most populous metropolitan area in Mexico, Jose Dávila quickly developed a first-hand interest in both the dynamic vision and ultimate decay of modern urban planning. After studying sculpture for a year at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Dávila further explored this initial fascination with the urban environment as an architecture student at Guadalajara’s ITESO University. His diverse academic background continues to influence his artistic practice, whether in the form of installations, drawings, sculpture, or, as is the case with Topology of Memory, 2011, photography.  

Topology of Memory consists of ten color prints with the central focus of each carefully cut out by hand. The resulting negative space, familiar yet removed, immediately invokes sensations of loss and nostalgia as the viewer attempts to identify the missing subject. While Dávila allows the background to supply a number of clues in terms of establishing both site (e.g. a gallery’s white walls) and medium (e.g. the incandescent glow of a light sculpture), it is the shape of the void itself, the subject’s topology, which ultimately leads to its identification. Depending on the viewer’s familiarity with art history, the artworks—including Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917, Maurizio Cattelan’s taxidermy horse (Novecento, 1997), Robert Gober’s amputated leg (Untitled Leg, 1989–90), and Robert Smithson’s Asphalt Rundown, 1969—emerge either instantaneously or perhaps after a closer examination of the depicted environs. However, even if they remain unnamed, the voids ultimately function to provoke the human compulsion for identification and to reveal the centrality of the object in art. 


A recipient of the Mexican Arts Council Grant for young artists in 2000, Dávila has more recently been awarded residencies at such institutions as the Camden Arts Centre in London and Kunst-Werke Berlin. In addition to an upcoming sculptural commission for the grounds of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Dávila’s work may be found in the permanent collections of various museums including the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and Le Mudam in Luxembourg. He is also the Founder and Director of the Office for Art Projects (OPA), an artist-run space located in Guadalajara.