The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Treasure of Ulysses Davis Features 40 Carved Busts of All the U.S. Presidents
Beast with Wings, Ulysses Davis c. 1988; Yellow pine, metal, paint, and plastic beads. High Museum of Art, Atlanta, gift of James E. Allen in memory of Ulysses Davis, 1991.351

NEW YORK, NY.- Though rarely exhibited, the sculptures of Georgia artist Ulysses Davis have been recognized as important examples of African American vernacular art, especially his series of carved busts of forty U.S. presidents. The exhibition The Treasure of Ulysses Davis is on view at the American Folk Art Museum from April 21 through September 6, 2009. Highlighted are one hundred sculptures; seventy-eight of them are from the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation in Savannah, which acquired most of Davis’s work after he died, fulfilling his desire to keep his corpus intact. This is the first time that the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation has lent any of Davis’s artwork to an exhibition.

The exhibition title The Treasure of Ulysses Davis is inspired by Davis’s explanation of why he disliked parting with his work: “These things are very dear to me. They’re a part of me…They’re my treasure. If I sold these, I’d be really poor.”

Ulysses Davis (1914–1990) was a Savannah barber who created a diverse but unified body of highly refined woodcarvings that reflect his deep faith, humor, and dignity. Because he wanted his work to stay together after he died, Davis rarely sold his sculptures. As a result, they have had little exposure beyond Savannah, particularly since his death, and he is little known outside folk art circles.

Davis’s sculptures, which range in height from six to over forty inches, are primarily figures in the round. They can be divided into major categories: portraits of historical and public figures from Martin Luther King to Bill Cosby; religious images, including his largest sculpture, a moving depiction of “Jesus on the Cross;” works influenced by traditional African forms, such as “Strange Fruit” in the American Folk Art Museum’s collection, and a group of regal African rulers; dramatic and demonic fantasy creatures, witty winged beasts and aggressive horned dragons; and decorative furniture and fanciful canes.

Davis’s masterwork is a patriotic group that is on view for the first time outside of Georgia: it consists of a series of forty carved busts of all the U.S. presidents through George H. W. Bush. Davis based the likenesses on a paper schoolbook cover printed with a design of small, stiff presidential portraits. He began with George Washington, in the 1970s, and completed the portraits in order, though interspersed with other works. He carved the busts from mahogany introducing subtle distinctions—Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Regan are probably the most convincing. Viewed as an installation, their impact when seen together further attests to Davis’s ardent patriotism.

Included in the exhibition is the last work that Davis carved, the gold painted “Garden of Eden.” It combines many of the themes that he worked with throughout his life: religious devotion, love, humor, the use of contrasting textures, and the figure of the serpent, reminiscent of the imaginary beasts that are resplendent in his oeuvre.

Ulysses Davis was born in 1914 in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He began carving as a young child. He left school early to help support his family by working for the railroad, where he learned metalworking as a blacksmith’s assistant. After being laid off in the early 1950s, he began barbering in a shop he built behind his home in Savannah. Carving figures from wood in his spare time, he filled his barbershop with his reliefs and freestanding carvings and also decorated and painted the outside.

For the more than three hundred carved figures, furniture pieces, and reliefs he created during his lifetime, Davis used shipyard lumber, wood donated by his friends, or that he bought at lumberyards. He almost never made preliminary drawings or models, but reduced the mass with a hatchet (later, a band saw) before refining the form with a chisel and knives, many of which he fabricated himself. To add textural details he sometimes used tools of his barbering trade, such as the blade of his hair clippers.

Ulysses Davis’s carvings were featured in the seminal exhibition, “Black Folk Art in America: 1930–1980,” at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1982, and were applauded as important examples of African American vernacular art at that time. Examples of Davis’s works have also been included in exhibitions such as “American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum,” at the American Folk Art Museum, 2002; “Rings: Five Passions in World Art,” at the High Museum of Art, 1996; and “Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art, 1776–1976,” at the Library of Congress, 1978. In 1988, Davis received a Georgia Governor’s Award in the Arts.

Today's News

April 21, 2009

Berlusconi's Sense of Humor Kicks Back, Paintings by Filippo Panseca on View in Italy

First Viewing Together in Twenty Years of Frick's Whistlers in Three Media

"Pictures Generation" of New York Contemporary Artists Featured Metropolitan Museum Exhibition

Rare and Spectacular Master Works Highlight Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Sale

BP Portrait Award 2009 Shortlist Announced - Record Number of Entries

Patrick Farrell and Damon Winter Win Pulitzer Prizes for their Works of Art

Exhibition Explores Major Movements in Latin American Art

The Treasure of Ulysses Davis Features 40 Carved Busts of All the U.S. Presidents

Artists Announced for ECA's Landmark Stone Carving Exhibition: Milestone

Thousands of Teenagers to Flood Sleaford in New Art Work

Drago Publishing Presents Nick Walker's Book Debut Titled "A Sequence of Events"

Everson Museum of Art Presents Skaneateles Connect Event: Art on the Lake

Artworks by New York City School Students on View at Guggenheim Museum

Can the Public be Trusted to Choose Public Art? The Art Fund's Big Art Debate at the RSA

Flower in the Pocket, Which Follows a Young Malaysian Family, has a Weeklong Run at MoMA

Park Avenue Armory Launches Annual Commissioning Program

Walker Art Center's Raising Creative Kids Initiative Presents Talk with Photographer Todd Deutsch

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- TEFAF New York Fall 2018 opens to strong attendance and robust sales

2.- Christie's announces auction of Magnificent Jewels and the concurrent Jewels Online Auction

3.- French court finds Jeff Koons guilty of plagiarism

4.- Papers of the exiled Stuart kings published online for the first time

5.- New exhibition explores relationship between British and Russian royal dynasties

6.- Wes Anderson presents box of 'treasures' from Viennese vaults

7.- Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies present...The Dark Side of Hollywood

8.- Hopper, de Kooning, Gorky and Stella hit new auction records in New York

9.- Old Master? Cave paintings from 40,000 years ago are world's earliest figurative art

10.- Cat mummies, animal statues discovered in Egypt sarcophagi

Related Stories

Important Judaica and Israeli & international art bring a combined $7.9 million at Sotheby's New York

Tunisia to auction ousted despot's treasures

Andy Warhol's Mao portraits excluded from the Beijing and Shanghai shows next year

China criticises French Qing dynasty seal auction

Christie's announces auction marking the first half century of the popular and luxurious interiors shop Guinevere

Nine new exhibits debut at San Diego International Airport

Rembrandt masterpiece "Portrait of Catrina Hooghsaet" back on display at National Museum Cardiff

Amber: 40-million-year-old fossilised tree resin is Baltic gold

Egyptian artist Iman Issa wins the Ist FHN Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Award

The main chapel of the Basilica of Santa Croce open for visits after five year restoration

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

Check out for a range of beautifully designed online slot games.

Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful