Neal Baer Collection

Vaginal Davis

Gene Malin


Mixed media

2 5/16 x 3 7/16 in (5.87 x 8.73 cm)

Courtesy of Adams and Ollman, Portland

Vaginal Davis (b. 1959, Los Angeles; lives and works in Berlin) is an important figure in the “homocore” movement that reinterpreted hardcore punk through queer cultures in the 1980s and 90s LA club scene. Davis’ films, writing, “terrorist drag” performances, music, and DIY art objects often parody media conventions and high culture. According to her website:

Set apart from gallery-centered art, and Hollywood movies, and from those systems’ necessities of high-polish, low-substance production, Vaginal Davis’s low-budget — often no-budget — performance, experimental film and video practice has critiqued exclusive conceits from the outside. Davis has been a prolific producer of club performance, video and Xerox-produced zines, and other forms of antagonistic low-cost, high-impact work. Such as in her drag reconstruction of Vanessa Beecroft’s Navy SEALs performance, Ms Davis derails collector-friendly raciness in spectacles of femininity, queerness and blackness. She criticizes both the gallery system and the larger cultural trend that it mirrors, with tongue-in-cheek self-exploitation and rude provocations of racial and gender confusion.

Vaginal Davis, Biography

Gene Malin was one of the first openly gay drag performers in speakeasy culture in the 1920s and 30s. As a teenager, Malin worked as a chorus boy in Broadway shows and drag performer in several Greenwich Village clubs. By 1930, Malin was the highest-paid nightclub entertainer and appeared in a few Hollywood movies such as Arizona to Broadway, in which he impersonated Mae West. Davis’ pastel-colored portrait is executed on a paper, perhaps part of some kind of event program, listing Vaginal Davis as the participant in the group CHEAP Kollectiv, a performance, music, film and art action group based in Berlin of which Davis is a member. Among other performances, CHEAP Kollective reinterpreted Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1791) in a script written Davis.  In styling Malin’s portrait over the ephemera related to CHEAP Kollectiv, Davis emphasizes the economy of means and the collaborative nature of her practice, and pays homage to the innovative impersonations and reinterpretations of her historical forerunners.  


Adams and Ollman

Other works by Vaginal Davis

Hagatha (2012)

Jeanne Lanvin, Madame Grès, Elsa Schiaparelli (2012)

See also

Vaginal Davis’ website

Vaginal Davis at Adams and Ollman

Vaginal Davis at Isabella Bortolozzi

“Vaginal Davis: An Invitation to the Dance,” Adams and Ollman, Portland, 13 September – 20 October 2018

“Vaginal Davis: The White to Be Angry,” Art Institute of Chicago, 1 February – 26 April 2020

Ryann Donnelly, “The Teachings of Vaginal Davis,” Art in America, November 20, 2012

“Vaginal Davis: HAG – SMALL, CONTEMPORARY, HAGGARD,” Participant, Inc., New York, 4 November – 16 December 2012