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), Memo #2, 1956. Oil on canvas, 24 x 32 in. (61 x 81.3 cm). Private collection. © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Harry Cooper: The first painting, Landscape, from 1932 and 1935, is very much the sketch. It's a sketch he made in Gloucester, looking at the harbor. We see rigging, we see some kind of a shack with some steps on the left, maybe some cleats and some levers in the foreground. It's not easy, but it's certainly not totally abstract. It's a landscape, in fact it's a harbor landscape.

A few years after that, he makes it into something that looks much more like a painting. 

Narrator: That work, Shapes of Landscape Space, is to the left. 

Harry Cooper: He uses about six or eight colors. What's he doing? [laughs] I think what happens from that sketch, he actually makes it much more realistic. It's much easier to read. He gives us that sign on top of the shack. It's a fish house, so maybe a place where fish are being processed. It's easier to read because of the variety of color. We feel we can move around in the image and explore it a little bit. He gives us a little more detail on those levers in the foreground.

I like to think of this painting as offering us some controls with which to operate it. He loved this idea that space was dynamic, flexible, uncertain, a lot of different ways to read it. By giving us those levers in the foreground, it's almost like we're working this machine along with him. We can see it very flat; we can see a lot of space in it; we can read it in a lot of ways. That's the excitement of that second painting. It's maybe the friendliest painting in the group.

We move on a big jump in time, about 15 years to the painting called Tournos from 1954. 

Narrator: If you’d like to hear about Tournos, please tap the button on your screen.