Cameron Granger and Tyler Davis have a truth to tell. At Corrugate Studio Collective, they’re both completing finishing touches to their upcoming show Shadowboxing at 934 Gallery. As components of the show are still in the making, their artist statement unveils a glimpse at what’s to come:
Using lens and print based techniques the artists explore the effects of forced behaviors and cultural structures imposed within their communities through various forms of media and other societal pressures. Through personal anecdotes and experiences that speak to the world at large, the artists use the micro to speak on the macro. Fumbling in the dark against an enemy unseen, the duo confronts the monster underneath their beds. A shapeless villain, passed down from generation to generation. The shadow beneath their feet, stretching out from under the sun to reach up to grip at their neck.
“We both wanted to stop focusing on father figures within media, specifically, but more on the masculine element of things that are pushed on to us,” Tyler says.
“We get to look at things with a fresh set of eyes,” Cameron says. “It’s solely work between us, in conversation with each other. There are a lot of different things that happen when you’re [creating] in close proximity.”
Though the artists were raised separately, with Davis hailing from Columbus and Granger having lived in Cleveland before pursuing film studies at CCAD, their thoughts on racial intersectionality are closely aligned, with a heightened pragmatism on visibility.
“The goal with [Shadowboxing] is similar; through sharing our personal experiences in a way that can be accessed by all, we hope that those who might have gone through something similar can feel seen,” Granger said.
Feeling unseen in his youth, Davis says that his relationships with familial black men were “nonexistent.” In his art, Davis uses societal pressures of growing up on the southeast side of Columbus as a guide.
“Even from people that look like me, I always felt I had to dress, be, and act a certain way from my peers, family, and neighbors,” he says. “I feel black men deal with being seen as evil in the eyes of the world.”
While Davis experienced discomfort with the perceived notion of what it meant to be a black man, he went on to find solace in the music of Tyler, the Creator. Using printed images of the rapper on cloth with brightly colored paint splattered across, the piece represents duality between his gritty on-stage persona and delicateness of black masculinity.
In response, Granger has sought out film standpoints of blackness.
“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of black faces in movies, television or art and I wanted to fill that void. My work examines black representation in media, so I always try to subvert it,” he said. “I’m hoping it will create a dialogue, for better or for worse. Hopefully people that look like us will be able to walk into the space and feel seen, like there are folks making contemporary art that relates to them or have faces that look like theirs in it.”
Those who aren’t present at 934 Gallery during the Shadowboxing exhibit will be able to indulge in some of the pieces featured through social platforms.
“The people I looked up to growing up, and even currently, did everything on their own and were able to utilize anything they could get their hands on. Their work was very social media heavy, using it as a means to get themselves out there, creating somewhat of a buzz,” Davis said.
Granger looks forward to viewers within the black community being able to liken themselves with pieces in Shadowboxing, no longer being weighed down by stereotypes that are densely set upon them.
“There’s a real need for diverse lenses today more than ever, which is why I choose to work in the spaces that I do,” he says. “The more honest portrayal we have of Blackness, and by extension Black masculinity, the more we can subvert traditions of these one dimensional, often damaging portrayal that so many of us have grown up with.”
Shadowboxing opens at 934 Gallery (934 Cleveland Ave.) May 4 from 7-10 p.m. The show will run through May 18. For more, visit 934.gallery.