The lasting impact of the late Terrell Davis | Best of Chicago 2020

The lasting impact of the late Terrell Davis 

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Even before visual artist and designer Terrell Davis began his first year of classes at the School of the Art Institute in 2016, he’d already helped define outre pop and Web-centric electronic music. In the early 2010s, he contributed to the hallucinatory retro vision and sound of vaporwave. He made slyly funky songs under the pseudonym Visaプリペイド; the artwork for his 2013 album, スムーズOCEANS, for example, centers on a hyperclean disc shaded with a pastel emerald gradient and set atop a picturesque beachside image that looks too pristine to exist in real life. Davis became further involved in vaporwave as he made designs for the video-streaming music festival SPF420, and his vision expanded further to other Web-based music communities in the ensuing years. Underground pop singer Liz recruited him to make the album art for her 2015 single produced by Sophie, “When I Rule the World,” and Davis’s bright, gleaming close-up of a desk cluttered with a rococo hand mirror, stickers, potted-plant leaves, a baseball cap, small glass balls, and three phones (two cell, one rotary) accentuate the bubbly, hyperactive song. At SAIC, Davis’s portfolio expanded as he worked with clients as big as Nike and Travis Scott, while on the ground in Chicago he connected with queer dance party Rumors—he frequently desgned their flyers. After the pandemic hit, Davis got involved with Zoom-based queer party Club Quarantine, and even designed their logo. After Davis died at age 22 on December 30, 2020, Club Q threw a tribute show that featured a performance by two-time RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Shea Couleé and a slew of DJ sets, including from Chicago producer Ariel Zetina and one of Davis’s closest friends from SAIC, MorenXXX. Davis had a tremendous influence on several overlapping artistic scenes in Chicago and around the world, and I imagine we’ll unpack the role of his influence for years to come.

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
Bisa Butler: Portraits Art Institute of Chicago
November 16
Performing Arts
March 19 1