Stuart Davis (1892–1964) ranks as a preeminent figure in American modernism. With a long career that stretched from the early twentieth century well into the postwar era, he brought a distinctively American accent to international modernism.
Davis’s work feels especially vital today in its blurring of distinctions between text and image, high and low culture, and abstraction and figuration. This exhibition departs from previous efforts in its organization. From 1940 on, Davis rarely painted a work that did not make careful reference, however hidden, to one or more of his earlier compositions. Such appropriation is a distinctive aspect of Davis’s method. (...) this will be the first major Davis exhibition to consistently hang later works side by side with the earlier ones that inspired them.
With approximately 100 works, from the paintings of tobacco packages and household objects of the early 1920s to the work left on his easel at his death in 1964, In Full Swing will highlight Davis’s unique ability to assimilate the imagery of popular culture, the aesthetics of advertising, the lessons of Cubism, and the sounds and rhythms of jazz into works that hum with intelligence and energy.
Credit: Exhibition overview from the Whitney Museum website
Whether you go or not, the catalog that accompanies this exhibition, Stuart Davis: In Full Swing, pays tribute to the mature work of Stuart Davis, a distinctly American artist who adapted European modernism to reflect the sights, sounds, and rhythms of popular culture. Beginning in 1921, a series of creative breakthroughs led Davis away from figurative painting and toward a more abstract expression of the world he inhabited. Drawing upon his admiration for Cézanne, Léger, Picasso, and Seurat, Davis developed a style that would evolve over the next four decades to become a dominant force in postwar art.