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), Super Table, 1925. Oil on canvas, 48 x 34 1/8 in. (122.2 x 86.7 cm). Terra Foundation for the Arts, Chicago; Daniel J. Terra Collection 1999.37. © Estate of Stuart Davis/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Narrator: Davis has built this painting out of flat planes, with skewed and wavering lines. The resulting composition seems mobile, unstable, hard to pin down. 

Harry Cooper: The title is a pun, a Davis pun, because we really think it should be, maybe, a supper table. 

Narrator: Harry Cooper is curator and head of modern art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

Harry Cooper: What is a Super Table? What's super about it? Maybe he's playing with the idea of what's on top of the table is super and what may be below the table.

There we begin to see two very different kinds of things happening in the image, thinking on my feet here. What we see above the table are recognizable things. The cocktail glass, some drapery, a bit of a back wall, which seems to have some exposed brick, albeit it at a jaunty angle.

The most puzzling thing on the table is what looks to me like some kind of folded card, possibly with a stamp on it, which seems to depict some kind of surrealist woman or female anatomy—but I wouldn't bet on it.

That brings us below the table where we are entering a realm of abstraction. There seems to be a bright, white illumination of what? A parallelogram set inside a non parallelogram with connecting lines. I sometimes think of that as a treadle underneath a sewing machine. I really don't know. Is it part of a rug? Are we looking into a fireplace, andirons? Or is it simply a place where Davis felt free to experiment, maybe because it's under the table.