Steve "Pablo" Davis born Paul Meier Klienbordt, 1916 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US. Davis is an American artist, life-long communist activist and Detroit community organizer. He is the last living member of the team of artists who worked with Diego Rivera on the Detroit Industry mural which is in the central courtyard, Rivera Court, of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Davis was raised by his Jewish immigrant parents in Philadelphia. He worked as a coal miner at age 14 until he became involved in a violent strike. After this strike he left Pennsylvania to ride the rails as a young hobo
. His travels eventually took him to Detroit, Michigan
where, at age 16, he meet the Mexican muralist
Diego Rivera and Rivera's wife Frida Kalho
. By this time Davis had become a militant communist. He served in the American volunteer Abraham Lincoln Brigade
during the Spanish Civil War
. Davis claims that he and the then House Unamerican Activities Committee
lawyer Richard Nixon
squared-off in a shouting match when he was call to testify before the committee.
Davis has stated that he changed his name from Paul Klienbordt in the 1950s after doing prison time for activities related to migrant labor organizing in Colorado
, although this cannot be independently verified.
Davis's work ranges from representational post-impressionism to highly abstract expressionism. Much of Davis's art is influenced by the cubism of Pablo Picasso, who he has claimed to have studied under and worked with in Europe. His other major influence is Diego Rivera and the other Mexican muralists. Davis assisted Diego Rivera on the Detroit Industry mural panels in Rivera Court in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Davis says that he painted a "Dick Tracey" like face on one of the figures when Rivera asked for a tough looking figure. He also assisted Rivera on a mural painted inside the Ford Motor Company's Rouge Plant, in Dearborn, Michigan. One of Davis's paintings is displayed in the Louvre. Davis's painting of Michigan Governor John Swainson is hung in rotunda of the Michigan Capitol Building. He has painted commissioned portraits of celebrities including Katharine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. His sculpted relief panels, based on Mayan art, adorn the Coamerica Bank Building in Detroit.
Davis is also known for his community mural projects in which he works with young people to produce large scale co-operatively produced paintings. At least two of these murals can be found in Southwest Detroit.
Davis has been a long time member of Detroit's Scarab Club a gallery and social venue for leading Detroit artists. His autograph is founds on the club's ceiling beam along with the autographs of Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell and John Sloan. Signing the ceiling beams is a Scarab Club tradition honoring distinguished guests and members.
Davis resides in Southwest Detroit, the heart of the city's barrio
and the home to many enclave neighborhood of great cultural and ethnic diversity. Since the 1980s Davis has been active in an ecumenical project seeking to unite this community around the development of senior housing and services for children, first through the community based group Ecumenical Project SAVE and later Bridging Communities Inc. This activism has resulted in an 80 unit senior affordable housing project known as the "Pablo Davis Senior Center." This project also incorporates intergenerational programs to enhance services for both seniors and children. Davis, who has donated much of his portfolio and collection to this project, resides and maintains a studio in this complex. Although still an avowed communist and revolutionary, Davis asserts he is comfortable working with this mostly religious and Christian
In 2005 two Madonna University
students, Christina Warren and Adam Guth received a grant from the Michigan Campus Compact to make a film about Davis's role in Detroit Industry
. The documentary, The Life and Art of Pablo Davis
was released in December 2006. They won an Emmy Award for Best College Student Documentary, presented by the Michigan Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts and Science at the Gem Theater in Detroit on June 16, 2007. From 2005 through 2007 Davis gained public attention by his participation as the oldest contributor to the annual Valentine's Day Dirty Show
an art exhibit hosted by Bert's Warehouse Theater in Detroit's Eastern Market
. The show features a wide variety of erotic art, ranging from pornographic to kinky to romantic. Davis frequently acted as a spokesperson for this event. Davis also frequently provides tours and lectures at the Detroit Institute of Arts concerning the Detroit Industry