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Stuart Davis

Owh! in San Paõ


about this work

The quintessential painter of the modern urban scene, Stuart Davis found inspiration in billboards, signs, storefronts, and jazz rhythms. Translating developments in vanguard European art into an American vernacular, he also anticipated the pictorial concerns of Pop art, especially its appropriation of imagery from consumer culture. Owh! In San Paõ, a frenetic mix of everyday objects, words, and chromatic energy, was based on a painting of a coffeepot Davis made twenty years earlier. In this later variation, he retained the original subject, reducing the coffeepot to a cylinder, and added the words “else,” “used to be,” and “now,” referring perhaps to the temporal gap between the two pictures. The title of this painting was originally Motel, and Davis had planned to exhibit it at the 1951 Biennial in São Paolo, Brazil. When it was rejected by the exhibition’s organizers, he humorously renamed the work Owh! In San Paõ.

Stuart Davis, Owh! in San Paõ, 1951  52.2
Stuart Davis, Owh! in San Paõ, 1951. Oil on canvas, 52 1/4 × 41 3/4 in. (132.7 × 106 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase  52.2 For Teachers
Art © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY