Gene Davis, a painter associated with the Washington Color Painters, is a self-taught artist whose early work represents several phases of experimentation, including abstract expressionism, neodada and proto-pop.
Davis was born in Washington, D.C. in 1920. He spent most of his adult life in that city: until the late 1950's Davis was a journalist, serving as a White House correspondent and a sportswriter.
His involvement with art began early in the 1950s when he visited the Washington Workshop and worked with Jacob Kainen, whom he regards as his guide and mentor.
During his experiments of the 1950s, Davis produced irregularly shaped masonite panels and panels embedded with rocks and gravel. One work featured a "Peanuts" comic strip covered with blue and white stripes. Davis is perhaps best known for his edge-to-edge paintings of vertical stripes, which he first began to produce in 1958. That first stripe painting, considered at the time a maverick work, was approximately 12 by 8 inches, with straight yellow, pink and violet stripes, of uneven width, but alternating with regularity.
From this prototype, Davis has continued to paint variations of different sizes. His micro-paintings of the mid1960s were no more than two inches square, and were commonly grouped together on one wall. More often, Davis chooses a large canvas or mural, such as South Mall Project for the New York State Capitol, executed in 1969.
In the larger paintings, Davis uses placement and pattern of stripes to create complex rhythms and sequences of colors. The stripes themselves vary in width from one-half inch to eight inches.
Davis considers the vertical stripe as a vehicle for color that follows no preexisting chromatic scale. By varying the hue and intensity of the stripes, Davis creates a sense of a figure on a ground, as in Red Screamer (1968, Des Moines Art Center).
Of the stripes, he has written, "There is no simpler way to divide a canvas than with straight lines at equal intervals. This enables the viewer to forget the structure and see the color itself."
Davis has taught at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and at various other institutions.
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