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Gene Davis: Hot Beat

November 18, 2016 – April 2, 2017

Image for Gene Davis: Hot Beat

Gene Davis, Hot Beat, 1964, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation

Brightly colored stripes multiply in rhythmic repetitions across the surface of a painting by Gene Davis. Remarkably original when they first appeared in the 1960s, these paintings became the signature expression for one of the leading Color Field painters. With no more than a rectangular canvas and multicolor stripes, Davis created a richly varied body of work that looks as fresh today as it did when it first was shown. The large size of most of his canvases from the 1960s requires a viewer to consider the relationships and rhythms over time, more like a musical composition than the dynamic, colorful, pop art images that emerged at the same time.

I became convinced that the way to make really good art was to do the outrageous, the unexpected—to be a renegade. That was my philosophy—to explore the seemingly impossible in art, to do things that were new for their own sake, whether they were good or bad.

Gene Davis

This selection of fifteen classic stripe paintings by Gene Davis from the 1960s reveals the ambitious vision and accomplishment of one of Washington, D.C.’s outstanding visual artists. A number of the paintings are nearly 20-feet-wide—including Dr. Peppercorn, Raspberry Icicle, and Red Witch—and have not been seen publicly in decades due to their huge size. Commentaries about the artworks were written by Jean Lawlor Cohen, consulting curator for the exhibition and long-time friend of the artist. Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator, and Joann Moser, former deputy chief curator, selected the artworks on display.

When you visit, see if you can spot the dozen Micro-Paintings on view too!

Hot Beat Dance Party
Saturday, November 19, 2016, 8–11 p.m.

Join us for an evening inspired by Gene Davis’s colorful, rhythmic striped paintings from the 1960s with music from that decade, delicious party fare, hand-crafted cocktails, and tours of the exhibition. At the party, we’ll also say farewell to SAAM’s director Betsy Broun, who is retiring after nearly thirty years. Tickets ($60) are on sale until 5 p.m. Friday, November 18.

Public Programs
Saturday, November 19, 2016, 8-11 p.m., Hot Beat Dance Party (ticketed)
Friday, December 9, 2016, 4 p.m., Conservation of Our Collection: Gene Davis
Thursday, January 12, 2017, 6:30 p.m., Panel Discussion—Washington Art Scene in the 60s
Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 5:30 p.m., Gene Davis: Hot Beat Curator Gallery Talk
Friday, February 10, 2017, 4 p.m., Conservation of Our Collection: Gene Davis

Gene Davis: Hot Beat is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from the Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, Gene Davis Memorial Fund, James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Tania and Tom Evans Curatorial Endowment, and YARES ART, New York, Palm Springs, Santa Fe.