Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stuart Davis. The Whitney Museum

Oh Mary you've got to see this show, its glorious and splendid full of zest and color and lines and pop before pop, this Stuart Davis was one hell of an artist. And now at the Whitney there are about 100 of his paintings from the 20's up to his last unfinished work that he was working on when his ticker gave out in 1964.
I've always loved this guy's paintings ever since I was a teen when I would see them at the Moma and the old Whitney they spoke to me like all great art does, but only to me.
They still do. Here he was in the 20's mixing up commercial art with fine art, and giving it the old Cubist push along with his own vocabulary of signs without meanings. Red Hot and Jazzy. The works are pushed and pulled and twisted and then placed on the canvas like some fucked up dinner party for one. Davis knew.
I should mention that I had my second cataract operation last week so everything is brighter and sharper and dizzy tizzy wizzy, and at times looking at art (great art that is) makes me feel like I'm going to pass out. In fact I had to get out of the Moma last week after 20 minutes before I fainted from the brightness of the lights and seeing things that weren't there, so the dada show was a no no.
Today was better, but man his colors really seared my brain and my eyes, they are so fresh and bright like he painted them tomorrow. At one point I had to put on my sunglasses. Not his fault these works are so wonderful I relish them, the beauty and intensity of them all. They influenced me because I was a working class kid with no formal art training and they reminded me of Times Square. and Coney Island two of my favorite places for me to hang out when I was a child.
These were places of movement and animation so busy and crowded and so are his paintings. They move. His street scenes and buildings vibrate. Of course the formal qualities of the work are there, they always were there, but all I saw was the grandeur of his color and abstracted images that reminded me of ads and comic strips of billboards and signs and tv and movies.
And how many times when a child did I walk by his mural "Men Without Women" in the men's lounge at Radio City Music Hall, all browns and smoky on my way to pee before the latest technicolor musical began? Its no longer there, but there is a paint sketch of it in the show. When I was a teen I did a painting that is obviously influenced by Stu remind me to show it to you one day, but in the meantime take in this magnificent show that fills most of the immense 5th floor gallery (the other show sharing the floor are the brilliant photographs of Danny Lyon and don't let me get started on him, this great heartfelt photographer I'll save it for another day).


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