After a decade as part of the multidisciplinary crew CYRCLE, for Davey Leavitt the idea of exploring complex ideas across eclectic mediums from painting and sculpture to installation, collage, printmaking, fashion, functional design and even poetry is nothing new. What has been exciting in Leavitt’s recent work is the degree to which in his solo practice, the artist has been willing and able to infuse both his fine art and design elements with a personal narrative of vulnerability and growth. Coping with, open about, and flourishing despite challenges with neurological and mental health, and also frankly as a human navigating these fraught times, Leavitt demonstrates a special gift for creating in an upbeat, even exuberant pop culture voice that nevertheless conveys more serious messages as to societal and individual battles.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
DAVEY LEAVITT: When I made a sculpture out of scotch tape when I was 3. My momma used to call me tape boy (lol). I still like using tape, especially masking tape. It’s so satisfying to peel it off.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work is about whatever is going on now. The state of my mental health and where I am emotionally and conceptually. I hate boring art, as John Baldessari said. That’s why I don’t have a signature style, it’s boring … and I get bored too easily. Besides, doing the same thing over and over again would be my purgatory. It’s the safest route but certainly not the most interesting.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I wasn’t an artist I would be a dog. To be specific, my dog Hunny. My wife spoils her rotten. She’s always massaging her and feeding her steak. If not that, then retired in Bali.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I went to the McDonalds of art schools, the Art Institute (RIP). I studied graphic design and graduated in 2003. Sometimes I wish I went to a real art school though, maybe the institutions would pay attention to me. No, actually I’m happy I didn’t… I like that I’m self taught. Authenticity is gained and cannot be taught.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I’m originally from Seattle. I moved to Oakland in 2001 then to L.A. in 2005. I have been based here ever since. I just kept going south until the sun shined. I hate the gray, that’s why I live in L.A.
When was your first show?
I’m showing for the first time as a solo artist as you read. Before this, I was in an art duo called CYRCLE (with David Torres, @rabitowing) from 2010-2020. We had our first show in 2010, Unless you’re counting the coffee shop on Haight St. in SF? Together with all of the non-gallery galleries along the way? That coffee shop was called Muddy Waters, they hung my first ever paintings in 2002. Damn, that’s almost 20 years ago! Does that make me a mid-career artist yet? FML I’m almost 40, ahhhhh.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I am currently showing in a new gallery in Westwood. The title is EVERYTHING IS FINE KEEP SWIPING / HOW TO CAGE A WAGGING TAIL. The body of work I created for this exhibition explores my journey with mental illnesses expressed through a conceptual lens. The show opened on July 15 and will close August 15. The exhibition is presented by the GCS agency and produced by MAAVVEN and my patron John Winter.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I like to listen to what I’m doing. I mean… silence is the best music.
Website and social media handles, please!