Cherie Benner Davis
Los Angeles is a driving town. It was planned that way; its complex array of freeways and concrete structures were built at a time when automobiles were rapidly becoming the transportation mode-of-choice within the urban sprawl of the city. Owning a car is still synonymous with the American Dream, a symbol of freedom, status and virility. LA’s concrete highways are part of our landscape, as much as palm tree-lined streets, manicured lawns and scavenging seagulls. We map our lives as we move throughout this place, and the flattened, exaggerated perspectives in Benner Davis’ compositions mirror our visual encounters of the city: the underbellies of bridges, cropped views of on-ramps and a desolate stoplight devoid of pedestrians. Working from photographs taken on Benner Davis’ daily commutes, LA Pastoral removes all human activity to focus on the structured environment itself. In certain paintings, a palette of pinks, blues and greens replaces the monochromatic skyline of concrete grey; a playful nod at the neon signs of America’s driving culture. This is Los Angeles re-imagined: a pre-built ideal or a post-apocalyptic dream.
CHERIE BENNER DAVIS
LA PASTORAL ARTIST STATEMENT
Los Angeles is a driving town. It was planned that way; its concrete structures having been built at a time when automobiles were rapidly becoming the transportation mode-of-choice. In this place, owning a car is often considered a necessity and seemingly is connected to the idealism of The American Dream. LA’s concrete highways are part of our landscape, as much as palm tree-lined streets, manicured lawns and scavenging seagulls. We map our lives as we move throughout this place: What time of day are we traveling? Are we taking THE 405; THE 10; THE 101…?
My father, a native Angelino, always drove convertibles—a residual symbol of the era in which he came of age. To him, the act of driving these cars in the city conjured a sense of freedom and virility. Perhaps today’s LA still beckons to some with a similar promise, regardless of whether it really has ever been so.
The paintings in LA Pastoral derive from my own travels through this basin. Photographs of structures, interchanges or singular moments were taken on my daily commutes. The photos were used as source material for paintings in which some element has been isolated and manipulated: a careening off-ramp positioned against an empty sky. Here the colors are often exaggerated, sometimes surreal; the form is flattened and the surfaces pristine. All evidence of a human presence has been erased: there are no cars, telephone poles or skid marks. This is Los Angeles imagined: a pre-built ideal or a post-apocalyptic dream.