“All this crazy shit that happened around me… And I realize, it was ME! I was the one with ALL this GAME! I was at the TOP, the TOP of the GAME, but it didn’t start out like that. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was doing what they told me, and what those other guys was tellin’ me.” (Davis, A. – excerpt. Unpublished manuscript)
Tony Davis (b. 1960) grew up on the Westside in the Chicago Housing Authority’s mega housing project, ALBA. He went to Westinghouse High School in the 1970s, where he became involved in the trade that would define his younger years. Not until later did he take an interest in art making, and he sold his drawings primarily on the street outside of Union Station until he joined Project Onward in 2008.
Davis’ intensely colored, highly detailed drawings depict quasi-fictional interpretations of his own life. The portrayal of pimps, hustlers, prostitutes and other unseen residents of West Side neighborhoods are rare in the art world, but his comic-book style and openness offer space from judgment, allowing viewers who aren’t from his society to think and talk about these topics in less-guarded dialogue. The artist explains, “I want people to see the truth, the nitty-gritty. The true street life.”