Cy Gavin (born 1985) is an American artist that lives and works in New York. Gavin often incorporates unusual materials in his paintings such as tattoo ink, pink sand, diamonds, staples, Bermudiana seeds, and cremains. Gavin also works in sculpture, performance, and video.
Gavin was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up 20 miles south of Pittsburgh in a steel and coal mining town called Donora, Pennsylvania. Both Gavin's mother and father worked in the region's glass factories.
Gavin graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 and Columbia University's MFA program in 2016.
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Gavin moved to San Francisco and worked in post-production for several years before relocating to New York in 2010. In New York, Gavin worked as Associate Producer for an avant-garde opera company, Beth Morrison Projects, as Web Content Manager for non-profit gallery PARTICIPANT INC, and served as archivist for Vito Acconci.
Overture, At Heaven's Command, and Rubell Foundation Residency
Gavin's first solo exhibition in New York, titled Overture, opened at Sargent's Daughters in July 2015. Twelve mixed-media paintings were shown. The works explored the artist's childhood, specifically his relationship with his father, as well as the "double consciousness" of black life in America. Gavin often paints his abstracted figures using a unique combination of paints that render the subject in "ultra-black" and contrasts the figure's austerity with bright, saturated colors for the landscapes and backgrounds.
The show opened to positive reviews from critics. Martha Schwendener from The New York Times wrote that Gavin makes, "the backgrounds of his paintings as attention-grabbing as the figures. Craggy and sculpted, they conjure the terrain of the islands, but also canvases by Francis Bacon, Gauguin, and Cézanne, whose landscapes look as if they were chiseled onto the canvas."
Gavin's second solo exhibition, titled At Heaven's Command, opened at Sargent's Daughters in April 2016. The show included more of Gavin's hybrid paintings as well as new video works. Gavin spent the previous year in Bermuda and used his time on the island to research his paternal genealogy and the complicated history of the Slave Trade on the island. The title for the exhibition was taken from the first line of the British anthem "Rule, Britannia," which was written during Bermuda's slave period.
Later in 2016, Gavin was included in the group exhibition High Anxiety at the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Florida. Gavin also held a six-month residency at the Rubell Foundation during this time.
In 2017, Gavin moved his studio from New York to Dutchess County, New York.
Gavin's third solo exhibition, Devils Isle, opened in early 2018 in Paris, France at VNH Gallery.