Hot Beat

  • Gene Davis, Hot Beat, 1964, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation, 1976.108.33

Davis placed colors without a preconceived plan: My whole approach is intuitive. Sometimes I simply use the color I have the most of and worry about getting out of trouble later.“

Gene Davis: Hot Beat, 2016

Gene Davis worked mostly with vertical stripes because he felt that horizontal stripes carry the illusion of landscape,” and he didn’t want his paintings to represent anything except themselves. Between 1962 and 1969, he painted lines of uniform width so that nothing would distract the eye from his vibrant color combinations. (Naifeh, Gene Davis, 1982) Here, the edges between the stripes blur as our eyes struggle to cope with the dramatic contrasts. Certain hues, such as the whites toward the center and the acid greens near the edge, jump forward, but eventually all of the stripes appear to drift in and out of focus as if moving in time to gentle music. Davis never planned his compositions more than a few stripes ahead and instead improvised like a musician, letting each color inspire the next.

It seemed to feel right, as we entered the sixties, to have color that leaped right off the wall, that almost assaulted you. I wanted the painting to attract attention and be noticed. It’s almost as if I wanted to shout, rather than to whisper.” The artist, quoted in Naifeh, Gene Davis, 1982
Hot Beat
Not on view
45 5850 14 in. (115.9127.6 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Woodward Foundation

Mediums Description
acrylic on canvas
  • Abstract – geometric
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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