NARRATOR: In this 1951 painting, Stuart Davis revisited one of his earlier works, transforming an abstract still life that had focused on a coffee percolator. Here, he’s so abstracted the structure of the object that it’s impossible to identify. The painting becomes all form and color. Its visual rhythms and jazzy, high voltage colors create an energy of their own.
In many ways, Davis is a forerunner of Pop art. His lettering here mimicks signage or other printed matter, and looks forward to Pop’s fascination with advertising. The painting also explores mass communication in a very forward-looking manner. Look at the square field of red dots at left. These are exaggerated Ben Day dots. In commercial printing, such dots were placed close together and intended to blend optically into the appearance of a solid color. Beginning a decade after Davis completed this painting, the Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein would make Ben Day dots a hallmark of his work.
Davis originally called this painting Motel. He changed the title when it was chosen to be included in the Sao Paulo Bienale.