Conner Contemporary Art is pleased to present drawings and paint sketches by abstract color imagists Morris Louis, Gene Davis and Thomas Downing. These rarely shown works provide insight into creative processes underlying the most historically significant movement in Washington art: color-field painting. This is the first exhibition in Washington in the past 22 years of works on paper by Morris Louis, a celebrated pioneer of American post-painterly abstraction.
Louis, Davis and Downing are best known for staining raw canvas with acrylic paints to compose open patterns of color uncircumscribed by contour lines. The works in this exhibition demonstrate lesser-known linear and representational components of the artists’ creative habits.
Figural images in some of Davis’s and Morris’s paint sketches and drawings resonate with works by Cezanne and Picasso. Downing’s signature dial patterns are drawn and painted improvisationally on brown paper bags. These intimately scaled pieces reveal a spontaneous manner of imaging which complements the reductive methods the artists systematically employed in their large, nonrepresentational canvases.