Michael Davis, Water, 1983

Michael Davis
Copper stain on cement and pine, 1983
85 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 11 1/4 inches
Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Trust
Water, part of a 1983 series entitled For the City of Now and Then, is Michael Davis at his least referential, without any globes or timepieces or appropriated diagrams or overt architectural references to steer the viewer toward a specific interpretation. However, considering much of Davis’ work from the early 1980s addresses architecture, it can be safely assumed that the skyscraper-like proportions and the use of concrete and pine are intentional signals of architectonic content. The work’s piecemeal jumble of geometric solids around a winding cylindrical metal core recalls some of the more adventurous large-scale architectural visions of the 1960s, but its title, the title of the series, and the intentionally distressed and oxidized surface suggest a more mournful and enigmatic reading—it could be the decaying pilings of a collapsed funhouse pier, perhaps, or the stump of an abandoned deep-sea oil rig — the submerged ruins of a once-dominant global empire brought down by techno-fetishism and hubris.