Karon Davis: Curtain Call Arrives on The High Line




Photo credit: Timothy Schenck

Karon Davis brings to life historical and allegorical figures in her signature white, wrapped plaster sculptures. Immersed in her parents’ worlds of theater and ballet as a child, Davis’ installations merge memory and scenes from the stage with historical events, mythology, and ongoing socio-political concerns. Taking up topics ranging from environmental disasters to the Civil Rights Movement, Davis shows us how politics, history, and myth are all performances that live in our collective imaginations.

Karon Davis: Curtain Call on The High Line at 23rd Street.

Image courtesy of The High Line

For the High Line, Davis creates a larger-than-life bronze portrait of a ballerina taking her final bow after a performance. Using a combination of 3D scanning technology and traditional sculpting techniques, the bronze figure was derived from Davis’ life-size plaster cast sculpture of ballerina Jasmine Perry. The work is an homage to Davis’ parents and sister, all of whom were professional dancers. Curtain Call draws on the artist’s experience growing up on stage and behind the scenes of the dance and theater world, seeing firsthand the incredible mental and physical toll taken to create a flawless performance. The work is part of a new series, Beauty Must Suffer, which examines the life and labor of Black dancers in the historically European tradition of ballet. Davis’ sculptures trace the ballerina’s pursuit of perfect form, from their first encounter with the barre to their final bow—theatrically presenting their bodies as a vessel for performative storytelling. As Curtain Call’s ballerina kneels forward, she reveals a bouquet of roses, a traditional gift of appreciation given by admiring fans after a ballet. Staged on the Lawn at 23rd Street, Curtain Call is forever frozen in reverence to her audience, transforming the architecture of the High Line itself into a stage.

About the artist ~ Karon Davis (b. 1977, Reno, Nevada) lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Recent solo exhibitions have been featured at institutions and galleries including Beauty Must Suffer, a solo exhibition at Salon 94, New York, New York (2023); Jeffrey Deitch, New York, New York (2021); Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles, California (2018); and The Underground Museum, Los Angeles, California (2012). Notable group exhibitions include Black American Portraits presented in conjunction with The Obama Portraits Tour, LACMA, Los Angeles, California (2021); Feedback, Jack Shainman Gallery, The School Kinderhook, Kinderhook, New York (2021); Yesterday we said tomorrow, Prospect New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana (2021); Art and Hope At The End of the Tunnel, USC Fisher Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California (2021); The Slipstream: Reflection, Resilience, and Resistance in the Art of Our Time, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York (2021); Eleven Figures In Two Parts, Atkinson Gallery at SBCC, Santa Barbara, California (2020); Reclamation! Pan-African Works from the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia (2018); and Young Blood, The Frye Museum, Seattle, Washington (2016).

Support ~ Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc., and Charina Endowment Fund.

High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Adrienne Adams.

Take a look back at ‘Karon Davis: Beauty Must Suffer’ at Salon 94 last year.