Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paintings I Like, pt. 55

Gene Davis, Saratoga Springboard, 1969. Acrylic on canvas, 113" x 280."

Run, don't walk over to Ameringer-McEnery-Yohe to see this picture. It's a pity that the column in the center of the room prevents you from standing directly in front of it, but it's still unbelievable, all 23 feet of it.

Gene Davis has the uncanny ability to create surprises using the most limited and Spartan of motifs - the vertical stripe. He thinks like a jazz musician, specifically a drummer; motifs repeat for a bit, but then an accent appears, louder than the previous notes and placed in an unexpected spot. After the accent, the picture sometimes returns to the previous rhythm, or a new beat is introduced, sometimes made to seem faster or slower in tempo by slimmer or wider stripes, and which is again punctuated by contrapuntal rhythms. I could have stood there looking at this picture all day.

Davis, like Ken Noland, was completely clued in to the visual weight of colors, and the effect that weight had on their placement in pictorial space. But Davis added to this a terrific and playful understanding of the metaphorical sonic volume of colors: the picture would murmur, then shout, then mumble - what musicians refer to as dynamics. It was a genuine masterpiece, even though I know that term is currently frowned upon.

The rest of the show was quite good, but this picture was really stunning. Ameringer-McEnery-Yohe is located at 525 W 22nd St. in Chelsea, and the show stays up until July 17th. To say that I highly recommend it is a gross understatement