A New Match for Mike Tyson: An Artist Moves the Iconic Boxer From the Ring to the Page

Mike Tyson is taken out of the ring and onto the page in Bruce Davenport, Jr.’s new body of work. The series is not only a biographical shrine to one of the most iconic professional athletes, but also an autobiographical archive taken from the artist’s own childhood.

New York gallery Louis B. James has put together a surprising show titled “The Dapper Bruce Lafitte Does His Hero Mike Tyson,” where Davenport illustrates fight scenes from various Mike Tyson boxing matches. The artist assumes the alter ego Bruce Lafitte for this series, taking the name of the housing projects where he grew up as the last name of his persona.

Typically known for his effusive and vibrant colors, Davenport veers away from expectation and opts for darker tones, while often leaving other parts of his surface blank. When color does intervene, it is to highlight the excitement that went into Mike Tyson’s matches. The works are rooted in the inherent thrill and violence that characterize the sport, reflected in the written notations around and within the illustrations. In T.D.B.C. Presents Mike Knockin All The Jerry Curl Juice Out Of His Pizz (2013), for example, he writes in one corner “Watching Mike beat up people was cool LOL.” Drawing from his experience growing up as a child in the Lafitte Projects in New Orleans, Davenport inserts his own impressions of the matches as seen from the perspective of someone perhaps not yet aware of the brutality of the spectacle. 

As meticulously drafted as a diary, each of Davenport’s ink paintings rely heavily on richness of detail, both in text and imagery. Each character has a very intentional place on the page, while the audience is perfectly orchestrated in precise rows that frame the central narrative, the boxing ring. The more you look, the more sharply articulated details appear; viewed up-close, some of the tiny characters even have facial expressions. Such an emphasis on detail lends the works a humane tone, recognizing the central violence while emphasizing the crowds of people that are united and cheering for the heroic Tyson. 

Michael Valinsky

The Dapper Bruce Lafitte Does His Hero Mike Tyson” is on view at Louis B. James, New York, Jan. 22–Feb. 21, 2015.

Follow Louis B. James on Artsy.

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