Tuesday Tunes: A Playlist for Gene Davis

Taking inspiration from the major theme of music in Ten Americans: After Paul Klee, we paired 11 staff members with 11 works from the exhibition and asked them to create a playlist in response to their individual artwork. Kathryn Rogge, Manager of Academic Programs & Phillips Music, created her playlist in response to Gene Davis’s “Black Flowers.”

Gene Davis, Black Flowers, 1952, Oil on hardboard, 36 1/8 x 24 1/4 in., The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Anonymous gift, 1974 © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Black Flowers got me thinking about polyphonics (multiple voices), with each of the flower stems stretching vertically like an individual voice raising to the sky in song. While polyphonic texture extends to ancient and sacred music from all over the world, it may be found in any composition with overlapping melodies in counterpoint. The “voices” in a polyphonic piece can either be sung by a single voice in overlapping recordings (like Mouth’s Cradle), multiple voices (a whopping 40 voices appear in Spem in Alium) or played on instruments (such as Fables of Faubus); or in this case, painted into the long, slender stems of Gene Davis’s black flowers to create a tension and rising movement evocative of the songs on this list.

Kathryn Rogge, Manager of Academic Programs & Phillips Music

Feeling inspired? Create your own playlist based around works in the exhibition and send it to us at communications@phillipscollection.org and we may feature it on our blog and social media.

Eye to Eye with Pollen and Egg Yolk

Joseph Marioni, Yellow Painting, 2003, No. 9. Acrylic and linen on stretcher 36 x 34 in. Photo: Charles Abdoo

On a recent Spotlight Tour, Joseph Marioni’s bright canvases left many in the group cold. Responses ranged from a resolute “not interested” to a searching, “what do they add to the history of art?” Gallery Educator Alice Shih pointed out that, for some, Joseph Marioni‘s paintings may be best brought into focus by the work of other artists hanging nearby. Alice pointed out sight lines from Marioni to Matisse, to Kandinsky, and along a river of blues and pinks in Gene Davis, to Morris Louis, Adolph Gottlieb, diving into two deep blue Marionis a few galleries beyond.

Alice built further context through metaphor. She told us that the feeling of “egg yolk” pops into her head when she looks at a particular yellow painting by Marioni. (I see pollen, which leads me to the work of another artist recently at the  Phillips).

Later I asked Alice if this kind of color association happens for her with other works by Marioni. She shared this list:

*Red Painting (2002): lava

*Yellow Painting, (2011): the song Good Day Sunshine by The Beatles

*Blue Painting (1995): the night sky (it has spotty moments when it could seem like stars)

Joseph Marioni, Blue Painting, 1995, No. 26. Acrylic and linen on stretcher 28 x 24 in. Photo: Nicholas Walster

Does Marioni’s work bring up particular memories, sensations, references, or metaphors for you? Please comment and let us know.

Cecilia Wichmann, Publicity and Marketing Manager