Artibus et Historiae no. 24 (XII)

1991, ISSN 0391-9064

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BONNIE GRAD - Stuart Davis and Contemporary Culture

While Stuart Davis has long been recognized as one of the foremost American modernists, a full appreciation of his work has been hindered by the tendency of art historians to focus on its formal attributes. With few exceptions, over the last three decades the content of these paintings was either dismissed as inconsequential or, at best, considered secondary to the artist's formal concerns.

This article argues that, on the contrary, his formal innovations were inextricably tied to contemporary subject matter. Davis was committed to modern content even before modern form, and the challenge he took on was to integrate the two. Ultimately, he used abstraction as a "synesthetic equivalent" through which to express his response to the dynamic new culture of the twentieth century, as represented by, among other things, technological advances, commercial packaging, and jazz musie. His search for a means of incorporating the world around him in his art made him possibly the most complete modernist of all.

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