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Juan Davila

Juan Davila is a major figure in contemporary Australian art. His fluent appropriations of other artists’ styles and motifs (all neatly numbered and labelled), combined with an assertive iconography of sexual desire and transgression (all bare thighs and thrusting tongues and mutant genitalia), made him one of the most interesting painters of his generation – the postmodern, theoretical, Art and Text push of the 1980s. He has represented his country in northern hemisphere exhibitions from Paris to Banff, and has maintained strong connections across his native Latin America. The New South Wales Vice Squad’s infamous impounding of Stupid as a painter in 1982 cemented the artist’s ‘bad boy’ reputation with the general public, as well as within the art industry, while his painting of a semi-nude, hermaphrodite Simón Bolivar giving the finger actually created a full-scale diplomatic incident involving Chile, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. Davila’s regular output of polemical essays, his gloriously rude lampoons of political leaders and his more recent, sober protests against refugee detention have ensured his work has a place in public discourse. A comprehensive survey is long overdue.

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