Gene Davis, real and imagined

Gene Davis inspired striped fence Washington DC

When I was in Miami this past January, I enjoyed seeing this Gene Davis painting titled “Blue Freak-Out,” 1966, at the Perez Art Museum. (scroll down for more)

Gene Davis painting Perez Art Museum Miami

And when I was in Washington D.C. last fall, I saw this striped fence, which reminded me of Gene Davis’ work. The funny thing is, Gene Davis was actually born in Washington DC in 1920, and lived most of his life there up until his death in 1985 … and considering the wear and tear on this fence, who is to say that maybe Gene Davis painted this in the 1980s? The art geek in me thinks it’s fun to imagine … and if nothing else, it’s great inspiration to paint a fence in this style!

Gene Davis inspired striped fence Washington DC

Who is Gene Davis?

Gene Davis was an American abstract painter who was famous for his use of colorful vertical stripes in his artworks. He was born in Washington, D.C. in 1920 and worked as a sportswriter and a White House correspondent before becoming an artist in 1949. He was influenced by Paul Klee, Arshile Gorky, and jazz music, and he developed a style that was spontaneous and rhythmic2.

What is the Washington Color School?

Gene Davis was one of the leading figures of the Washington Color School, a group of painters who emerged in Washington, D.C. in the 1950s and 1960s. They were part of the larger movement of Color Field painting and Post-Painterly Abstraction, which focused on the expressive power of pure colors and shapes. The Washington Color School artists used acrylic paints on unprimed canvas, creating large-scale abstract compositions that often covered the entire wall or floor. Some of the other members of the group were Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Sam Gilliam.

Why are stripes important in Gene Davis’ art?

Gene Davis started painting stripes in 1958 and continued to explore this motif for the rest of his career. He used different widths, lengths, colors, and arrangements of stripes to create dynamic and complex visual effects. He said that he wanted to make paintings that could not be seen at a glance, but required prolonged attention and movement from the viewer. He also compared his stripes to musical notes, saying that he was “playing by eye” rather than by ear. He experimented with different scales and formats, from small “micro-paintings” to huge public installations like Franklin’s Footpath, which covered a street in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with colorful stripes in 1972.

How can you appreciate Gene Davis’ art?

Gene Davis’ art is not only beautiful to look at, but also challenging and stimulating to experience. His paintings invite you to explore the relationships between colors, shapes, rhythms, and spaces. He suggested that you could enter his paintings through the door of a single color, and then see how it interacts with the other colors across the painting. You could also try to follow the patterns and variations of his stripes, and notice how they create optical illusions or unexpected harmonies. You could also compare his paintings to music, poetry, or other forms of art that use repetition and variation as creative tools. Gene Davis’ art is a celebration of color and vision, and a reminder of the endless possibilities of abstraction.

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