Best known for his edge-to-edge paintings of vertical stripes in carefully demarcated bands, Gene Davis was a leading figure during the mid-twentieth century group known as the Washington Color Painters, a group that included Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland.
Davis was associated with his hometown of Washington, D.C. throughout his career. After studying at the University of Maryland, he began his professional life as a journalist. He served for many years as a correspondent for the White House as well as a sportswriter.
Davis had no formal art training, and his initial foray into the field occurred in the 1950s when he worked at the Washington Workshop with Jacob Kainen, a noted painter of abstract works who inspired many of the Washington colorists. In fact Davis became a prominent member of the Washington Color School, a group of artists who gained recognition for their use of color as a primary expressive element in their work.
In 1958 Davis created his first “vertical stripe” painting, which was twelve-by-eight inches and featured yellow, pink, and violet stripes of uneven width that alternated with regularity. One of Davis’s most notable contributions to the art world is his use of vertical stripes as the primary motif in his paintings. These stripes, often of uniform width and meticulously arranged, became a trademark of Davis’s style. His approach was not only visually striking but also conceptually rich, inviting viewers to explore the interplay of color and form within a seemingly simple structure. While Davis’s work is primarily associated with formalism and minimalism, there is a sense of rhythm and movement in his paintings that sets them apart.
Davis taught at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and at various other institutions including American University, Washington, D.C. and Skidmore College, Saratoga, New York. His work may be found in many important private and public collections, including the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the San Diego Museum of Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.