- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

“Oh, no, not another Gene Davis show,” Washington and New York art aficionados may moan. Although Mr. Davis died relatively recently, in 1985 at age 64, there has been a plethora of the District native’s shows since then, with the major retrospective 20 years ago at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum.

The Kreeger Museum’s Davis exhibit is part of the current “ColorField Remix” survey organized for a citywide celebration of Washington’s Color Field and Color School artists in about 30 local arts venues. (The late Clement Greenberg, the powerful New York art critic, named and publicized the Color School.)

Mr. Davis’ show, “Gene Davis: Interval,” and another exhibit, devoted to his friend Paul Reed (“Paul Reed: The Sixties” at Osuna Art) kicked off the citywide tribute.

Best known for his taped vertical and canvas stripes in varied combinations, Mr. Davis “used stripes as events, the intervals between the variously colored stripes incorporating both space and time,” according to co-curators Jean Cohen and Andrea Pollen.

Generally, musical theory uses “interval” to differentiate pitch between notes, and Mr. Davis appropriately used the word to describe his own “musicality.”

Consider the museum’s own “Untitled” (1969) of acrylic on canvas at the show’s beginning. Observe the thin red centered stripes vibrating against the somewhat wider stripes of blues, greens, pinks, whites and canvas.

If visitors find orientation difficult, they can take Mr. Davis’ advice: “Enter the painting through [the door of a single color] and follow it through the work.”

The exhibit progresses through tall, wide-striped works such as the classic “Black Balloon” (1964) — with the same-width stripes — and the orange-striped “Tom’s Furnace,” then crosses the room to “Gentle Jackhammer” (1969) of both wide and thin stripes.

Mr. Davis’ “Homage to Newman” (1979) is one of this critic’s favorites. Simpler than many others, it centers two soft-blue standing panels surrounded by shimmering beige areas. A thin lemon-yellow stripe at right provides the perfect accent.

The silk-screens and drawings gallery introduces the softer, hand-painted “feather stitch” paintings, including “Foxgate” (1982) and “Yukon Sonata.”

“Foxgate” — 92 feet across — dominates this last gallery with Mr. Davis’ lightness of touch and stepped, thin stripes.

It’s amazing that the bald-headed artist — Mr. Davis anticipated today’s male fashion — who started life in Washington as a sports writer and Redskins fan, is remembered so intensely after almost a quarter-century.

There must be something about stripes.

WHAT: “Gene Davis: Interval”

WHERE: Kreeger Museum, 2401 Foxhall Road NW

WHEN: Docent-guided tours given at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; reservations required during weekdays by calling 202/338-3552, none required from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; through July 31

TICKETS: $8 person, $5 seniors and students, children under 12 free

PHONE: 202/337-3050

OF NOTE: Other museums participating in the citywide “ColorField Remix” show include the Phillips Collection, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, American University Museum and National Gallery of Art. Private galleries include Addison/Ripley Fine Art, Hemphill, Jane Haslem Gallery and Marsha Mateyka Gallery.

A full list is available on the Web at www.colorfieldremix.com.

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