David-Jeremiah at 12.26 Gallery, Dallas

By March 08, 2022
a large circular yellow disk hangs on a white wall with raised details
David-Jeremiah, El Cobarde, 2021, courtesy the artist and 12.26 Gallery. Photography by Kevin Todora.

In the silence of a white wall gallery, Kanye West’s “Mercy”, opening line, a song worshipping Lamborghinis, or Lambos, rings throughout the eight tondos of 12:26 Gallery. 

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“Well, it is a weepin’ and a moanin’ and a gnashin’ of teeth,”

Like most of us from the ‘hood, David-Jeremiah likes cars.  Lambos to be exact. The car represents success, respect, and affluence. It’s a mama, we made it car. These cultural ideals are embedded in I Drive Thee, an exhibition of eight black, red, and yellow paintings, both in form and philosophy. When viewed from far away, the mounted, large, round, wheel-like paintings appear as religious icons– the same way some of us mounted a single prize car rim on the wall growing up. Up close, the smattering of spray paint, enamel oil, and manila rope on wood reveal deeper, darker imagery. Stare long enough at each painting, and the lines and blobs shift, telling different stories. 

The image of a bull and horse runs concurrently throughout the series, two animals historically used for entertainment and labor. One can see the outline of Georgia O’Keeffe’s symbolism, animal skulls representing the death of manifest destiny. David-Jeremiah takes it a step further by drenching the iconography in blood-red paint. While red is the most obvious color choice for a Lambo, it also paints a sacrificial tone over the large, wood paintings. At what cost is success achieved? What does the bullfight risk for the orchid? The artist for the Lambo? 

a large black disk hangs on a white wall with an image of a bull in relief
David-Jeremiah, I Drive Thee, 2021. Courtesy the artist and 12.26 Gallery. Photo by Kevin Todora.

The surface of the wood panels resembled beaten and blistered bodies, animal, and man alike. Each Lamborghini model is named after a breed of bull or a fighting bull. These painterly gestures could easily be made by a bullwhip, which makes the mixed-media use of frayed manila rope all the more haunting. The other two motifs of the work, collarbones and orchids, appear and disappear. David-Jeremiah has staggered these binary battles on top of each other, quite literally, man versus animal, man versus man, man versus self. The brutality of gamesmanship harkens back to the Old Testament, when Samson killed a thousand soldiers with the jaw bone of an ass. No surprise we are still here, repeating the sins of our forefathers. 

The formulaic structure of bullfighting reflects our current late capitalist dog-eat-dog mentality. Most of us are playing both sides of the whip in some form of fashion, David-Jeremiah is just revealing how we’re being played.

David-Jeremiah I Drive Thee closed at Gallery 12.26 on March 5, 2022.

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