Sydney

Juan Davila

Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia

Across a corner of Rat Man, 1980, Juan Davila spells out his early painting’s comic-strip intention in cursive script: A DISCOURSE ABOUT A DISCOURSE / ART IS MADE FOR THE RECOGNITION OF DESIRE. When he painted Rat Man, it seemed that Davila’s discourse of pornographic desire centered on a programmatic method of citation and viral perversion of modern and contemporary art. Twenty-five years later, this large and exquisitely curated survey makes it clear that Davila recognized that desire resides more in the vicious, willed malevolence of people toward one another than in the multiplicity of sexual and artistic borrowing depicted in Rat Man.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Davila attended art school at the start of the ’70s, during a period of tragic political instability, and then moved to Australia in 1974 (he still lives in Melbourne). There are two other facts that most people who have heard of

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