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“I paint to surprise myself.”

-Gene Davis, 1967

Gene Davis, Gothic Seesaw, 1968, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 89 inches. Installation: CONNERSMITH., Washington, DC.

Gene Davis (1920 - 1985) was the self-taught maverick of the Washington Color School who, alongside Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Howard Mehring and Thomas Downing, achieved international acclaim in the 1960s for innovations in abstract imaging. Davis distinguished himself from his colleagues with the intuitive use of color at spontaneous intervals in his most important works: the stripe paintings.


Gothic Seesaw (1968) belongs to a notable group of Davis’s compositions that appear to open up in the center of the canvas with stripes of color grouped at either end. Other examples of this type of imagery include Rain Dance I (1960) in The Phillips Collection of Washington, DC; Sinbad’s Dagger (1978) in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Cake Walk (1978) in the Brooklyn Museum.

“Gene Davis’ painting in the past eight years has set him apart as one of America’s leading abstract painters. There is an intensity and wildness about the paintings, even after the passage of years, that differentiates them from more orthodox examples of contemporary hard-edge abstraction. Davis’ work pulls no punches, avoids no confrontations… Davis’ concept is uncopyable because it is intuitive and entirely his own.” -Gerald Nordland, 1968.


Gene Davis’s works are in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Dallas Museum of Art, TX; Denver Museum of Art, CO; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA; High Museum, GA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum of Art, NY; Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery of Art, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, DC; Tate Gallery, London; Walker Art enter, MN; Whitney Museum of Art, NY, among many other public institutions.

Gene Davis, Gothic Seesaw (detail), 1968, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 89 inches.

Selected Works

Gene Davis  Gothic Seesaw  1968, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 89 inches

Gene Davis

Gothic Seesaw

1968, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 89 inches