Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors - 7th Avenue Style
Stuart Davis was one of the first American artists to consider jazz and swing to be musical counterparts to abstract art. This painting, with its energetic shapes and Miro-esque squiggly lines buoyed by a vibrant color palette of red, black, white, yellow, orange, and blue, exemplifies this sensorial connection. Davis explained, "[It] is called Hot [a jazz term] because of its dynamic mood" akin to the energy and improvisation in jazz music. The six colors "are used as the instruments in a musical composition might be, where the tone-color variety results from the simultaneous juxtaposition of different instrument groups." These bold, pulsating colors affect an aggressive energy in imitation of the sensory overload that can accompany life in a modern city.
The painting's unusual title also offers a physical location: Davis's studio on 7th Avenue in the West Village, an area known for its outstanding jazz clubs. Davis's invented term, "still-scape," is a portmanteau combining the terms still-life and landscape. Indeed, in this painting, the artist brings together forms and colors from still lifes and landscapes of his earlier work and adds new shapes. Bright, bold lines evoke the stripes on the cement of a city street or the letters of neon signs. Round shapes suggest headlights and street signs; their vibrating colors alluding to the noisy, bustling atmosphere of New York City. Upon completing the painting, Davis commented: "It is the product of everyday experience in the new lights, speeds, and spaces of the American environment."
Here, as in Swing Landscape, Davis presents a unique post-cubist concept of pictorial space by foregoing the traditional method of organizing intersecting planes and shapes around the center of the composition and instead dispersing forms throughout the picture in a manner that denies any single identifiable focal point. Colors, though bold and strongly contrasting, are balanced so that no one color dominates. In this way, the painting becomes a loosely ordered, continuous, and decorative surface with serial centers of focus. The objective coherence of the picture means that all parts are equal, contrary to the Cubist gravitation toward the center of the picture plane. Soon many younger artists, including Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock, also began tinkering with their own departures from Cubism's established spatial order.
Oil on Canvas - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston