John Davidsen.18 Dameben (detail). 1967, acrylic on masonite, 2 x 30,5 m.
"Brother I am seeking" – this was the headline July 15, 1962 in the danish newspaper Aktuelt. It was Poul Gernes who talked about the first year at the experimental art school – the Eks-school. The Brotherhood was created and John Davidsen was an early part of the group.
As a foster child, he often visits Albert Mertz home and later on, during his daily mail route in Nyhavn, Clausen Kunsthandel - who represented Mertz. He read and saw the postcards Mertz sent home from his exile in Paris, and John never keept it a secret that Mertz was a role model.
Roy Lichtenstein was in advertising, James Rosenquist was a sign painter, Claus Oldenburg a magazine illustrator, while John Davidsen was the window decorator in Anva - before art became a full time job. They knew the direct effects and when Pop Art had its breakthrough in New York in 1962, the Danish brothers soon came on board.
Mertz first began with the classic template images, but already in 1963 John Davidson made the perhaps first real pop-art painting ”Ladies In Spiral." Shortly after Per Kirkeby also became user of the templates and it was Brother Per who talked about "…experience Pop Art the half second before it became convention."
Pop Art hits periphery Denmark almost simultaneously with its succes from New York to LA across the Atlantic. But John was still holding on as the development continued. His "intellectual" nude photo as multiple "Playboy of The Month" is fx. more Andy Warhol than the before mentioned. An early play on glamor and (mass) media focus.
From October 10 – 25th 1964 he exhibited his “Twister” at Trefoldigheden in an exhibiton together with Per Kirkeby and Ole Knudsen - and that work is one of Brother John's best. It can now be seen again in the new presentation of Danish art from 1900 to today at The National Gallery in Copenhagen. Arken – Museum of Modern Art has taken John Davidsens work up from the magazines and Peter Laugesen wrote in his review of the Eks-school exhibition (2010) at Museum Jorn: "John Davidsen, the least known of the school's core characters, it would be interesting to see solo and put into a wider historical context."
John was there at the crucial seconds. Throughout the sixties, a prominent figure who later disappears into the tobacco hazes and hard life at the bar.
The exhibition in the gallery are works from the estate of John Davidsen and doesn’t provide him full justice. The family has generously allowed us to work with all that was there but this is hopefully just a warm up the big retrospective solo.
John Davidsen (1944-2007). Was co-founder and active member, and later a teacher at the Experimental Art School, 1961-70. Practice by the Eks-school independent film company ABCinema, 1968-70, and at the Royal Academy of Fine Art, the School for Art Pedagogics, 1973-77.
Sources: "De eksperimenterende tressere" by Tania Orum, "Broderskabet" by Lars Morell and Dagbladet Information.