Stuart Davis: In Full Swing

Solo en Inglès

Hear commentary by Curator Barbara Haskell who organized this exhibition with Harry Cooper from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and Assistant Curator Sarah Humphreville, along with the jazz pianist Ben Sidran and archival interviews with Stuart Davis himself. 

Stuart Davis (1892–1964), Mural for Studio B, WNYC, Municipal Broadcasting Company, 1939. Oil on canvas, 84 x 132 in. (213.4 x 335.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; lent by the City of New York, 1965. © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Harry Cooper: What are we looking at? [laughs] Again, the title and the context give us a few hints. This is about radio broadcasting. We're before the age of television. It's WNYC radio station, very important station, broadcasting all kinds of things, including jazz, including the music that Davis loved.

The saxophone, if we follow it to the right, gets linked to this central gray area, with what looks like a bit of sky, maybe a mast and some rigging. 

His art is based in large part on sharp contrast. He loved contrast. He did not want to blend, he didn't want to meld, it's in his technique and in his composition. We see it very clearly here, putting things next to each other that may be very different, not only in subject, but in treatment.

The centerpiece here is largely about line. There's not so much color. There's gray, black, a little bit of blue and orange. The saxophone area is all about color, color shapes, not so much about line.

He's put them next to each other. The saxophone is on top of, or entering into, the other space. There's a spark that happens that he's interested in when compositions don't all fit together. Many of his paintings, we see a half and half structure almost aligned down the middle, two separate halves.

We see that in other paintings in the exhibition. Here you don't quite have that, but you have distinct areas which then raise these questions about how they are, or are not, related.