Preparation for State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now has necessitated the movement of many works of art. Because the exhibition will utilize the entirety of the Twentieth-Century Art Gallery, all of the art previously in that gallery had to be removed. Many went into storage in the Museum’s vault, but some were relocated to other galleries so that our guests may still enjoy a historical survey of Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection.
Two of our largest works have thus been moved to the Early Twentieth-Century Gallery bridge. Adolph Gottlieb’s Trinity, 1962, and Gene Davis’s Black Balloon, 1964, can now be viewed on the outer north wall of the bridge, facing the North Lawn.
It is a very different experience to view these large paintings in this much smaller space!
Gene Davis is best known for his large acrylic paintings with vertical stripes of active color. When you stand in front of Black Balloon you see a field of pulsating tones, and it becomes difficult to take in the painting as a whole. The colors seem to continually shift as your eyes move over the complex surface. Trying standing about 18 inches away from the center of the work and see how the stripes seem to vibrate around you: filling your field of vision.
During the 1950s and 60s, many artists were investigating the very definition of painting and the relationship between canvas and paint. These ideas began changing the ways in which artists worked. In Black Balloon, Gene Davis created an image that challenges conventional painterly techniques.
Davis was a member of a group of artists known as The Washington Color School. They focused on color, scale, and form as the most “honest” aspects of making paintings. The Color Field movement was a deliberate shift away from the energetic emotion of Abstract Expressionism toward a clear and dispassionate language of color.
For nearly 35 years Davis, like many artists today, had a “day job” to support his art practice until he became successful enough as an artist to devote all his time to it. He was a writer, covering sports for the Washington Daily News, and he also worked as a copy boy for the New York Times.
Be sure to visit Davis’s Black Balloon and Gottlieb’s Trinity in their temporary home!