21 October - 11 December, 2021
Catalyst Contemporary presents Cervidae, a solo exhibition featuring the works of Damon Arhos. The gallery is filled with paintings, sculptures, film, and neon artworks all centered around a single icon: the deer. In this diverse body of work, Arhos contemplates his own actions and experience of conformity and ostracization through his early boyhood experience of hunting. These animals have come to represent the beginning of Arhos’s experience with societal acceptance and rejection through the lens of his own gender and sexuality.
A native of Texas, Arhos came to know white-tailed deer at a very young age. Deer trophies from hunting trips hung in his home and it was his understanding that his own participation in hunting was mandatory. Arhos recalls that his experience with hunting was awkward and confusing. Many times he mindlessly went along with others, reinforcing their values and standards instead of upholding his own. From these early experiences in boyhood, Arhos created these works replicating the “trophy buck” to both reenact his actions as a young man and contemplate his actions as an adult. For him, deer are a symbol of pride, strength, and honesty. Through this symbol, Arhos comforts his younger self, providing compassion to his past.
The first work encountered is the outline of a stag’s head in blue neon hanging in the front window, requiring one to look through it and past it to see the pieces beyond. The works in the gallery’s main room are painted and collaged stag heads. These figures either stand alone within their original forms and others now intertwined with male humans, illustrating and connecting to his own feelings of sexuality as a gay man and how he came to accept himself. The painted figures are done in black and white but are not monotone; some are cooler or warmer with backgrounds composed of laser-printed photographs. Most are accompanied with pops of blue backgrounds, purple outlines, or pale green shading. These compositions are loose in form but apparent in subject. The technique of the dripping paint creates a sense of movement in the paintings and reveals the physical processes of their own making.
Collage without paint is also present as seen in Cervidae (Collage) Nos. 2 & 16, two pieces of deer heads created with shredded checks and dollar bills. In the Back Room, a digitized Super 8mm film featuring a close examination of a blurry stuffed deer head plays surrounded by white sculptures crafted from found branches and leaves twisted, combined, and covered in white cement into a replica of a stuffed deer that stares straight up at the sky.
Cervidae fills the gallery with many forms of deer and explorations into boyhood and adulthood through the eyes of Arhos. The works filling both spaces in the gallery delve into how our sense of self is developed within societal expectations and how we can affirm our own agency and individuality during uncomfortable moments with a sense of dignity and equality.