The title ‘The Revenants’, comes from the French word meaning ‘to return,’ refers to Davey’s evocation of both literary history and personal history. Inspired by the experimental modernist architecture of our gallery space, The Revenants represents a continuation of Davey’s exploration of the life and work of Jean Genet, the infamous author and playwright who discovered his consciousness as a writer while in prison.
These recent series of ‘mailer projects,’ were also included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. For these methodical projects, Davey folds C-prints into the shape of an envelope, addresses them, and sends them to friends, family and collaborators around the world. The physical journey of the photograph-cum-letter is an essential part of the making of the work itself: when opened and unfolded back into prints by the recipient, the stamps, incidental creases and dings—evidence left by the postal service and the passage of time itself—are unveiled. The process reflects many of the essentials of Davey’s practice: a love affair with the small details of everyday life; chance and accident as an artistic strategy (also the subject of much of her own writing); the reclaiming of a slowness that is often lost in the digitized world.
For this iteration of the mailer projects at Wilfried Lentz, the artist has resurrected previously un-exhibited photographs of the abandoned Ohio Penitentiary, taken in the nineties just before its demolition. Davey sent the photographs from New York to Rotterdam over the course of two months. The work is a direct response to the striking, fortress-like architecture of the Justus van Effen complex, the 1920s housing experiment and historical monument where Wilfried Lentz is located. The gallery’s series of small, deep-set windows, which Davey has linked through a continuous band of photographs, recall the no longer existent penitentiary and refer to Genet’s long history of incarceration.