Coagula Art Journal
Issue #70 October , 2004
by DAVIS & DAVIS
Which Davis are you?
Davis: The other
Davis: And why do
we go by the name Davis & Davis? It sounds like a law firm.
Davis: It's both
symmetrical and catchy.
Davis: But isn't
it also anonymous and depersonalized?
Davis: And that’s
a bad thing?
Davis: But what
are we actually: a law firm, a brother-sister act, two generations of
tax accountants, an air conditioner service company?
Davis: I hope we
don't disappoint anyone who thought we were an air conditioner service
company, but we're actually two generations of tax accountants.
you wanted to name a funny profession, you should have said fine art
photographers. F-words are funny.
Davis: Should I
plug the book now?
What’s this I hear about a book?
(read: gallerists) have been telling us for some time now that we
should have a book. And now we do. It’s called Childish
Things and it’s packed with photographs from our Childish Things series.
It’s fun, it’s edgy, it’s hip and makes a great
Davis: How big is
Davis: 8 by 10.
64 photographs on 96 pages.
Davis: No. It’s
paperback, but beautifully printed and highly affordable.
Davis: So, we
published it ourselves?
Davis: No. It’s
published by Santa
Davis: And how
much did we pay them?
incredible! So, tell me, was it difficult finding a publisher?
showed the book to maybe a half dozen publishers and had just started
scrapbooking our rejection slips, when our friend Ted showed it to
Davis: That would
be Santa Monica Press?
Davis: And we
didn’t pay them anything?
must be pretty excited about this.
Davis: Like a
Davis: So, what
is this Childish Things series about?
Things is staged photographs of lost and abandoned toys reenacting
various childhood traumas and forbidden games.
Davis: Are we
talking about our own childhood traumas and forbidden games?
Davis: No, we are
talking about the former toy owners’ childhood traumas and forbidden
games, information about which we extract from the toys, and which
is then filtered though our own memories and experiences on its way to
Here’s an example: We found a funny-looking doll at a thrift shop with
shoes and hair, but no clothes. Who knows why, but we got a strong
allergy vibe off this doll. Now it just happens that when
I was a kid, I got a dose of penicillin for a strep throat. An hour
later I began to feel itchy, so I went to the mirror, pulled up my
pajamas and saw to my horror I was covered with bright red spots.
That’s how we came up with "Dottie."
penicillin allergy is quite dangerous, no?
Davis: Let’s just
say moldy bread is the bane of my existence. But enough about me. Is
there anything from your personal experience that has made it into
found a strange, little doll at a local swap meet. Her mouth was wide
open and her hands were all tweaked. She really looked ill, and it
reminded me of the time I found my 2-year-old sister down in the
basement pouring bleach into little teacups. She was having a tea party
for her imaginary friends. I asked her if she had drunk the bleach and
she said yes. Anyway, we made a miniature bleach jug to pose this doll
with and put a little spilled cup on the floor and that was "Bleach
Davis: But what
happened to your sister?
Davis: Oh, they
pumped her stomach. They didn't find anything.
of stomach pumping, why don't we ever photograph Barbie?
reasons. First, Barbies have a limited range of facial expressions.
Second, Barbies are too grownup-looking for this series. Third, Mattel
has a tendency to sue anyone who makes unauthorized Barbie art. (They
always lose in court, but who needs the hassle?)
Barbies carry too much cultural baggage, and fifth, Levinthal did a
whole book of Barbies.
Davis: And they
were very tastefully done.
Davis: Where do
we find our toys?
Davis: At first,
we found all of our toys in the neighborhood where we lived in Van
Nuys. There was a grade school on our street and kids would drop
their toys on the ground on the way to school. We would walk our dogs
at nine a.m., pick up the toys we found and put them in a bag. Then
one day, a neighbor lady asked what was in the bag. The next day we
found no toys. The next week, same, no toys. Then one day, we
went out really early and saw the neighbor lady walking around with a
bag. It turns out she was going out before us every day - and, like a
packrat, was stuffing her house with boxes and boxes of lost toys.
After that we had to resort to thrift stores and swap meets.
later photographed a doll with a huge mouth and named it after this
lady: "Big Mary, Little Mary."
we still spend a lot of time looking for toys?
go out a couple of times a month specifically to look for toys, and
we also find toys while walking around our new neighborhood, especially
near the orphanage.
we own a lot of toys and what do we do with the toys when we’re done
fill up boxes and boxes with lost toys and stuff our house with them.
Davis: What kind
of camera do we use?
use a Mamiya RB67, which makes a 2 1/4 by 2 3/4 negative.
we alter the toys we shoot in any way, like clean them up?
Davis: No, except
for the dots on "Dottie." We added those.
we use Photoshop or any other digital imaging software in making these
Davis: What is
we divide the work into styling and photography, or do we collaborate
on every element?
both look through the camera, if that's what you're asking.
we print our own work?
Davis: Except in
Davis: How did we
a photography class at a community college in the valley. I had just
finished my undergraduate degree and was taking the class so I could
have darkroom access.
Davis: I was
there to meet chicks.
Davis: When did
we start collaborating?
first worked together for a Hiroshima show at LACPS in 1985, but didn’t
become Davis & Davis until 1991 when we started our Modern Romance
series, which is photos of us in impossibly romantic situations.
Davis: Did I read
somewhere that we used to be fashion photographers?
Davis: You may
have read it, but it ain’t necessarily so. At one time, before Modern
Romance, we did some test shoots of aspiring models. We learned a lot
about lighting and exposure, but mainly we learned that one of us
can’t be trusted around aspiring models.
Davis: What are
we working on now?
we’ve been busy with our latest toy series called Small Talents,
is photographs of untalented toys doing their acts, some of which
are pretty minimal like drinking beer in your bathrobe.
we do anything besides toy photos?
also do videos, drawings, sculptures and installations dealing with
such fringe sciences as ufology,
parapsychology and sexology.
Davis: You weirdo!
Davis: When is
our next show?
Davis: We’ll have
a show of Childish Things and Small Talents and a book signing on
October 16th at the Heather
Marx Gallery in San Francisco.
Davis: We’ll have
a show of Modern Romance, and a book signing on October 9th at
Revisited in Chinatown (Los Angeles).
important is it that people buy our book?
Davis: Let’s put
it this way, if everyone buys it, chances are much better that there’ll
be a second book.
we have a website where the curious can see what Childish Things looks
Davis: Yes, it’s davisanddavis.org
important is it nowadays for an artist to have a website?
Collectors, curators and critics often visit out of the blue. For
example, thanks solely to our website, we appeared on a Belgian
television show last year. Maybe you’ve heard of it: "Salmon
Was there any pay?
Davis: They paid
us in waffles. And say what you will about the Belgians, they
know their waffles!
Davis: One last
question: any advice for artists out there who want to get their own
first you have to sleep with Ted…