, Long Island City, New York

Lilac by Gene Davis

Gene Davis Biography

1920- 1985

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.


1977 - Gene Davis: Rectangle Paintings, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC - Gene Davis: 1949-1960, Max Protech Gallery, Washington, DC

1978-79 - Gene Davis: The Elemental Stripe, Early and Late, Fischbach Gallery, New York, NY - Gene Davis: Recent Paintings(1970-78), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, traveling to: Dayton Art Institute, Dayton OH; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

1981 - Gene Davis, The Stripe: Variations, 1959-1981, McIntosh /Drysdale Gallery, Washington, DC

1982 - Gene Davis, Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY - Gene Davis: Thirty Years of Drawing, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

1983 - Gene Davis: Recent Paintings, Middendorf/Lane Gallery, Washington, DC - Gene Davis: Recent Paintings and Drawings, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE - Child and Man: A Collaboration, Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, DC

1984 - Gene Davis: The Random and the Ordered, U.M.K.C. Gallery of Art, Kansas City, MO

1985 - Gene Davis: Drawings, The Tampa Museum, Tampa, Florida

1986 - Gene Davis: Focus 1960-1964,Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY

1987 - Gene Davis: A Memorial Exhibition , National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC - Gene Davis: Selected Works 1960-1965 ,Pence Gallery, Santa Monica, CA - Homage to Gene Davis, Hokim Gallery, Bay Harbor Islands, Florida

1988 - Gene Davis: A Survey, Charles Cowles Gallery, New York

1990 - Gene Davis: Drawings 1952-1982 Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY

1995 - Gene Davis in Black and White: Drawings From the Fifties and Eighties National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

1997 - Works from the Estate of the Artist, Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, DC


Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Walker Art Center, Minnesota

The Art Institute of Chicago

Tate Gallery, London

Whitney Museum of Art, New York

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