If you like color and graphics that pop, do not miss the Stuart Davis in Full Swing exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The exhibition is laid out in chronological order beginning with Stuart's early works created in 1912 all the way through his illustrious career that ended in 1964. His work evolves and morphs during each decade of his career. It is always colorful and graphic; similar in style and palette, but different enough that the work can be identified by the period that it was created. However with careful observation viewers can find key flashbacks, sometimes subtle, that relate to earlier works. The final painting in the exhibition was on the easel at the time of the artist’s death. The work possibly near completion still has masking tape on it placed on the canvas by Davis prior to his sudden death. The final piece contains the word “fin,” the French word for “end.” The exhibition runs from September 16 through January 1.
Above Photos by Zeek Taylor
From the Museum: Bentonville, Ark.– Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art presents the exhibition, Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, on view September 16, 2017, through January 1, 2018. Admission to Stuart Davis: In Full Swing is $8 for adults or $12 combined with Chihuly: In the Forest. There is no cost for museum members and youth ages 18 and under. Stuart Davis: In Full Swing is the first major exhibition in 20 years dedicated to Davis (1892–1964), a key figure in the development of American modern art. The exhibition showcases 86 works that reveal the dynamic, original style of this important American painter.
Stuart Davis: In Full Swing was co- organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Crystal Bridges is the final venue for this exhibition. Previous venues include: Whitney Museum of American Art: June 10 – September 25, 2016; National Gallery of Art: November 20, 2016 – March 5, 2017; and the de Young Museum: April 1 – August 6, 2017.
Born in Philadelphia, Davis began as an illustrator of urban life around New York. He was heavily influenced by European Modernists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Fernand Léger and became one of the first American artists to bring the lessons of French avant-garde art into American painting. Davis’s art was also informed by his love of jazz, advertising imagery, and everyday city life, and it blurred the distinctions between high and low art, and between realism and abstraction.
Davis’s first art teacher, Robert Henri, who is represented in Crystal Bridges permanent collection, hooked Davis on painting everyday American urban life and embracing all its aspects; while the poetry of Walt Whitman inspired Davis’s emotional impulse to capture unique American experiences. He created lively, innovative paintings marked by their bold use of colors, shapes, lines, symbols, and words. For Davis, his paintings were an expression of what he called the “American Scene,” and he believed abstract art could convey the energy, tension, and experience of American life in a rapidly changing world. “
Crystal Bridges’ visitors may be familiar with Stuart Davis, with five works from our permanent collection included in the exhibition,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges Executive Director and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. “We’re eager to introduce Davis to new visitors as well as share a deeper presentation of his long and complex career, unique practices, influences, and contributions to American culture.”
Beginning with a 1912 self-portrait, Stuart Davis: In Full Swing charts the artist’s development over five decades of artmaking. The exhibition opens with an introductory section featuring an overview of Davis’s career, then documents the evolution of his art by decade, culminating in his final, unfinished canvas, titled Fin (1962-64). “Davis was a pivotal figure in American modern art, whose work is remarkable for its breadth and inventiveness,” said Margi Conrads, Crystal Bridges Director of Curatorial Affairs. “Living from the horse and buggy era to the space race, Davis’s art was informed by experiencing most of the significant events of the twentieth century. Davis’s expansive vision and unique approach, informed by his enthusiasm for jazz, helped define American art for his generation and beyond.”
Throughout the exhibition, the impact of Davis’s great passion for jazz is evident. A lifelong enthusiast, Davis stated that jazz was the “great American art expression,” with “the same quality of art that [he] found in the best modern painting.” This is especially evident in his paintings after 1940 when he frequently reworked earlier compositions in a way similar to jazz’s concept of variations on a theme, and similarly conveys a uniquely modern sense of dynamism and vibrancy. The structure, rhythm, riffs and repetitions in Davis’s painting derive from his tremendous love of American jazz, especially piano music. The exhibition highlights the jazz rhythms in Davis’s works with the soft sounds of jazz music played in the galleries throughout the run of the exhibition.
The exhibition will also be accompanied by a full roster of jazz programs with highlights that may be found along with ticket information here: https://crystalbridges.org/exhibitions/stuart-davis-in-full-swing/
Major support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. This exhibition is sponsored at Crystal Bridges by James Dyke and Helen Porter.