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Stuart Davis Captured the Energy of Mass Culture and Modern Life in a Unique Way

  • Stuart Davis 1892–1964 (detail) - Colonial Cubism 1954 - Oil on canvas - Walker Art Center, Minneapolis - Gift of the T
May 30, 2016
Nadia Herzog is a pen name of Nadja Bozovic, a freelance journalist whose interest goes from the questioning influence of different art movements, through the connection of arts and urban space, to the art activism for social change. She enjoys interviewing artists and reading all about art history, and she is truly passionate about visual arts, especially about photography, design, graphics, multimedia, and street art in all of its forms.

As a unique retrospective of the artworks made by Stuart Davis (1892-1964), the upcoming exhibition entitled Stuart Davis: In Full Swing at Whitney Museum of American Art in New York will bring around 100 of his art pieces to the audience. The show will feature artworks that clearly represent the influence Stuart Davis had on the modern American art, and it will show the mastery of creating a specific artistic language, an approach so unique to Davis, that eventually it shaped his work through various phases in his career. The upcoming show will be a true retreat for art lovers in the United States.

Stuart Davis (1892–1964) - Visa 1951 - The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Mrs
Stuart Davis (1892–1964) – Visa, 1951 – The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Mrs. Gertrud A. Mellon, 1953 – © Estate of Stuart Davis Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Highly Influenced by European Modernism

Besides the mature art from Stuart Davis, made through the 1960s, the exhibition will show some of the artist’s early works as well. Paintings that he made in the mid-1920s clearly state that the artist was highly influenced by the European modernism. In fact, one exact moment in time – Armory Show in 1913 – served as an introduction point for Stuart Davis to what were his European fellow artists doing at the time. He was amazed, but, as the artist used to say himself, it took him an awfully long time to incorporate those impressions in his own art. When he finally did, the outcome was the series of artworks in the mid-1920s that was highly influenced by the European modernism, especially by Fauvism and Cubism. Davis had started experimenting with abstract forms, geometrical shapes, typography, and different design solutions, which led him towards one the most significant artistic phases in his career. Eventually, he became one of the most influential artists of the modern era, the one who is not afraid to explore all the possibilities of the avant-garde expressionism.

Stuart Davis (1892–1964) - Owh! in San Pao 1951 - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 52
Stuart Davis (1892–1964) – Owh! in San Pao, 1951 – Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 52.2 – © Estate of Stuart Davis; Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

From Art to Political Activism and Back

At one point, Stuart Davis made a sweep from the art scene and dedicated himself much more to the political activism. He was actively fighting for the freedom of expression, and for the artists’ economic rights as well, that it left him no time nor space for making art at the time. It wasn’t before the late 1940s that he returned to his art again. And then, the new phase had begun. Davis’s paintings became more vivid, colorful, energetic, and quite bold while depicting the ongoing happenings of the popular culture. Being faced with a choice between realism and abstraction, Davis had made his own style by mixing the complexities of imaginative objects with a realistic approach to modern life. His paintings of the last two decades of his life were the most dynamic and rhythmical art he had ever made, with a unique artistic language that unites some old motifs with new compositions, and an abstract concept with the avant-garde influence.

Stuart Davis 1892–1964 - Colonial Cubism 1954 - Oil on canvas - Walker Art Center, Minneapolis - Gift of the T
Stuart Davis (1892–1964) – Colonial Cubism, 1954 – Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation, 1955 – © Estate of Stuart Davis; Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Stuart Davis Exhibition in New York

The Stuart Davis: In Full Swing exhibition will be on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art from June 10 through September 25, 2016, with the opening session scheduled for June 8 at 9.30 am. It is not by chance that Whitney Museum is going to be the host of this show, because back in 1926 Stuart Davis had his first solo exhibition organized at this particular museum, and he was one of the founders of the Whitney Studio Club in 1918. The show is co-organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The National Gallery of Art will host the show from November 20, 2016, until March 5, 2017. Afterward, it will be moved to De Young Museum in San Francisco and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Featured image: Stuart Davis (1892–1964) – Colonial Cubism, 1954 (detail) – Walker Art Center, Minneapolis – Gift of the T. B. Walker Foundation,1955 – © Estate of Stuart Davis; Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY