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Stuart Davis: In Full Swing

June 10–Sept 25, 2016

Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Owh! in San Pao, 1951. Oil on canvas, 52 3/16 x 42 in. (132.6 x 106.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 52.2  © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Owh! in San Pao, 1951. Oil on canvas, 52 3/16 × 42 in. (132.6 × 106.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 52.2  © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Stuart Davis (1892–1964) is one of the preeminent figures of American modernism. With a long career that stretched from the early twentieth century well into the postwar era, he brought a distinctively American accent to international modernism. Faced with the choice between realism and pure abstraction early in his career, Davis invented a vocabulary that harnessed the grammar of abstraction to the speed and simultaneity of modern America. By merging the bold, hard-edged style of advertising with the conventions of European avant-garde painting, he created an art endowed with the vitality and dynamic rhythms that he saw as uniquely modern and American. In the process, he achieved a rare synthesis: an art that is resolutely abstract, yet at the same time exudes the spirit of popular culture.

The exhibition is unusual in its focus on Davis’s mature career and on his working method of using preexisting motifs as springboards for new compositions. From 1939 on, Davis rarely painted a work that did not make reference, however hidden, to one or more of his earlier compositions. Such “appropriation” is a distinctive aspect of his mature art. This presentation will be the first major exhibition to consistently hang Davis’s later works side by side with the earlier ones that inspired them. With approximately one hundred works, from his paintings of consumer products in the early 1920s to the work left on his easel at his death in 1964, the exhibition will highlight Davis’s unique ability to transform the chaos of everyday life into a structured yet spontaneous order that communicates the wonder and joy that can be derived from the color and spatial relationships of everyday things. 

Stuart Davis: In Full Swing is co-organized by Barbara Haskell, Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Harry Cooper, Curator and Head of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, with Sarah Humphreville, Curatorial Assistant, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 

Stuart Davis: In Full Swing is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

In New York, the exhibition is sponsored by

Morgan Stanley

Major support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Significant support is provided by the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation and Ted and Mary Jo Shen.

Generous support is provided by Barney A. Ebsworth, Cheryl and Blair Effron, Karen and Kevin Kennedy, Garrett and Mary Moran, and Laurie M. Tisch.

Additional support is provided by the Alturas Foundation, Jeanne Donovan Fisher, and Pitt and Barbara Hyde.

Major endowment support is also provided by the Barbara Haskell American Fellows Legacy Fund.

The Henry Luce Foundation TERRA

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Works from the Exhibition

Stuart Davis (1892–1964), American Painting, 1932 and 1942–54. Oil on canvas, 40 × 50 1/4 in. (101.6 × 127.7 cm). Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; on extended loan from the University of Nebraska at Omaha Collection.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Colonial Cubism, 1954. Oil on canvas, 45 1/8 × 60 1/4 in. (114.6 × 153 cm). Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, 1955.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Fin, 1962–64. Casein and masking tape on canvas, 53 7/8 × 39 3/4 in. (136.8 × 101 cm). Private collection.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Lucky Strike, 1924. Oil on paperboard, 18 × 24 in. (45.6 × 60.9 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph by Cathy Carver
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Owh! in San Pao, 1951. Oil on canvas, 52 3/16 × 42 in. (132.6 × 106.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 52.2  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Place Pasdeloup, 1928. Oil on canvas, 36 3/8 × 29 in. (92.4 × 73.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney 31.170  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Pochade, 1956–58. Oil on canvas, 52 × 60 in. (132.1 × 152.4 cm). Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Report from Rockport, 1940. Oil on canvas, 24 × 30 in. (61 × 76.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Edith and Milton Lowenthal Collection, bequest of Edith Abrahamson Lowenthal, 1991.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Salt Shaker, 1931. Oil on canvas, 49 7/8 × 32 in. (126.7 × 81.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Edith Gregor Halpert, 1954.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Semé, 1953. Oil on canvas, 52 × 40 in. (132 × 101.6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art; George A. Hearn Fund, 1953.  © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Swing Landscape, 1938. Oil on canvas, 86 3/4 × 173 1/8 in. (220.3 × 400 cm). Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, Bloomington; allocated by the U.S. Government, commissioned through the New Deal Art Projects. © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York
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Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
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Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
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Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
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Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
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Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
12 PM
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
3 PM
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
12 PM
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
3 PM
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
12 PM
Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Free Daily Tours
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Danny Lyon (b. 1942), Self-portrait, Chicago, 1965. Gelatin silver prints montage, 12 1/4 x 10 15/16 in. (31.2 x 27.8 cm). Collection of the artist. © Danny Lyon. Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
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Stuart Davis (1892–1964), House and Street, 1931. Oil on canvas, 26 1/8 × 42 1/8 in. (66.4 × 107 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 41.3. © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
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Installation Photography

Installation view of Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 10–September 25, 2016). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 10–September 25, 2016). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 10–September 25, 2016). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 10–September 25, 2016). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 10–September 25, 2016). Photograph by Ron Amstutz
Installation view of Stuart Davis: In Full Swing (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 10–September 25, 2016). Photograph by Ron Amstutz

EXHIBITION CATALOGUE

This book pays tribute to the mature work of Stuart Davis, a distinctly American artist who adapted European modernism to reflect the sights, sounds, and rhythms of popular culture.

Beginning in 1921, a series of creative breakthroughs led Davis away from figurative painting and toward a more abstract expression of the world he inhabited. Drawing upon his admiration for Cézanne, Léger, Picasso, and Seurat, Davis developed a style that would evolve over the next four decades to become a dominant force in postwar art. His visionary responses to modern life and culture both high and low remain relevant more than 50 years after his death. Focusing on the images and motifs that became hallmarks of his career, this book features approximately 100 works—from his paintings of tobacco packages of the early 1920s, the abstract Egg Beater series, and the WPA murals of the 1930s, to the majestic works of his last two decades. The authors take a critical approach to the development of Davis's art and theory, paying special attention to the impact his earlier work had upon his later masterpieces. They also discuss Davis’s unique ability to assimilate the lessons of Cubism as well as the imagery of popular culture, the aesthetics of advertising, and the sounds and rhythms of jazz—his great musical passion. Informed by previously unpublished primary documents, the detailed chronology is, in effect, the first Davis biography. Together, these elements create a vital portrait of an artist whose works hum with intelligence and energy.

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