Gene Davis: Hot Beat at Smithsonian American Art Museum, November 18- April 2, 2017

“With no more than a rectangular canvas and multicolor stripes, Gene Davis (1920–1985), considered a leader of the Washington Color School, created a richly varied body of work that looks as fresh today as it did when it first was shown. He is best known for his paintings of brightly colored stripes that were remarkably original when they first appeared in the 1960s. The large size of his canvases requires a viewer to consider the relationships and rhythms of color over time, more like a musical composition than the pop art images that emerged at the same time. This selection of 15 classic stripe paintings by Davis from the 1960s reveals the ambitious vision and accomplishment of this Color Field artist. A number of the paintings are nearly 20 feet wide—including “Dr. Peppercorn,” “Raspberry Icicle” and “Red Witch”—and have not been seen publicly in decades.” — SAAM

“I became convinced that the way to make really good art was to do the outrageous, the unexpected—to be a renegade. That was my philosophy—to explore the seemingly impossible in art, to do things that were new for their own sake, whether they were good or bad.” — Gene Davis

limelightsounds-of-grass

Gene Davis, Limelight/Sounds of Grass, 1960, magna, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

peeping-wall

Gene Davis, Peeping Wall, 1960, magna, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

untitled-1962

Gene Davis, Untitled, 1962, magna, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

4-116 003

Gene Davis, Wall Stripes No. 3, 1962, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist

triple-jump

Gene Davis, Triple Jump, 1962, oil and magna, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

black-grey-beat

Gene Davis, Black Grey Beat, 1964, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift from the Vincent Melzac Collection

hot-beat

Gene Davis, Hot Beat, 1964, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation

2005.19.3 010

Gene Davis, Two Part Blue, about 1964, magna, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

2005.19.2 008

Gene Davis, Flower Machine, 1964, magna, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

red-baron

Gene Davis, Red Baron, 1966, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

2005.19.1 001

Gene Davis, Red Witch, 1966, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

dr-peppercorn

Gene Davis, Dr. Peppercorn, 1967, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Florence Coulson Davis

raspberry-icicle

Gene Davis, Raspberry Icicle, 1967, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase

long-john

Gene Davis, Long John, 1968, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation

gothic-jab

Gene Davis, Gothic Jab, 1968, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist

“I am like the jazz musician who does not read music but plays by ear. I paint by eye.” — Gene Davis, 1971

Gene Davis: Hot Beat is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Commentaries about the artworks are written by Jean Lawlor Cohen, consulting curator for the exhibition and long-time friend of the artist. Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator, and Joann Moser, former deputy chief curator, selected the artworks on display.

Images courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum.