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 in “Gene Davis: Hot Beat” 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. Commentaries about the artworks will be 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.
“Gene Davis: Hot Beat” is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from the Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, Gene Davis Memorial Fund, James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Tania and Tom Evans Curatorial Endowment and Yares Art.
Ticketed Opening Party
The museum will host a “Hot Beat Dance Party” Saturday, Nov. 19, from 8 to 11 p.m. Tickets ($60) and details are available online at s.si.edu/hotbeat.
Free Public Program
A panel discussion, “Washington Art Scene in the ’60s” will take place Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. with Benjamin Forgey, independent art critic; Jean Lawlor Cohen, consulting curator; Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center; and Paul Richard, the Washington Post art critic from 1967 to 2009.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Follow the museum on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest, iTunes U and ArtBabble. Website: www.americanart.si.edu.