Beacon Gallery is pleased to present the first-ever retrospective of works by artist Malcolm Montague Davis (1933-2021, American) on view from February 4 to March 13, 2022.
An architect by training, hard-edge artist Malcolm Montague Davis created a niche for himself with artistic reinterpretations of both his architectural structures and landscapes. With an eye for color and an uncompromising attention to detail and consistency, Davis captured reality and translated it into geometry.
Always an enthusiast of architecture and transportation, these two themes run through the life of his work. No matter the subject, however, almost all works started as architectural maquettes. Davis stated, “Colored paper maquettes are made to study the proportions and color relationships. From these paper studies, candidates are culled to be enlarged into paintings. A single building may result in several paintings, which depict its diverse features.”
Davis’s work is true to the architectural forms of the Bauhaus movement. He used simple materials in their unadulterated state: his works sit on standard size Masonite panels, hung on attached wooden strainers. In addition, he only used Benjamin Moore paints, never mixing his own colors. Davis’s works have a modern look thanks to the straight lines within, and also keep near to simplicity with respect to the renderings of architectural and natural forms.
This retrospective intends to give an overview of Davis’s work, from the most ambitious pieces to some of his most meticulous miniatures. For any fan of modernism and the legacy of the Bauhaus, it shouldn’t be missed.
Honoring Malcolm Montague Davis
Art and architecture were intertwined throughout his life: he graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1958 and went to work at The Architects Collaborative soon after.
Davis’s years with the firm were spent working both in the Boston area as well as in Rome and Yangon, Myanmar, where he played a direct role in the design of buildings such as the University of Beirut and the University of Yangon. Eventually, Davis went on to open his own practice in the Boston area where he continued to design both residential homes and commercial buildings.
After retiring, he brought his passion for architecture to the world of fine art. A talented and meticulous artist, he indeed used a unique hard-edge style in his work. The infinite care and craftsmanship he put into his colorful abstract paintings earned him the nickname ‘Straight-Edged Davis’.
As Davis said in his own words, “The paintings are generated from my architectural drawings, which have been surveyed to yield visually stimulating compositions. A single building may result in several paintings, which depict its diverse features. Paintings are also generated from my sculptures. The sides are colored to convey a concept and to represent a particular locale.”
As an avid reader, great adventurer, and master storyteller, he used his ability to draw people together, leading many hiking and canoeing trips around the country. Malcolm founded the lunch group ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) and remained very close to his Harvard classmates, giving lectures and leading Harvard reunions. Two college summers surveying in Greenland influenced him. The consummate urbanite ecologist, Malcolm abandoned using a car in the city, choosing to walk to his many destinations. Traveling and, especially, spending time in Grenada, NM, and in Friendship, ME gave him great pleasure. In Friendship, he knew the lobstermen by name and greatly admired them for their mastery of their trade. Using the colors of Grenada, NM, and Friendship, he incorporated what he saw into his paintings.
His passion for railroads brought inspiration to his work. Davis’s Sierra Nevada Railroad Series is dedicated to his great grandfather, Samuel Skerry Montague, Chief Engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad and responsible for building the western half of the Transcontinental Railroad. In the famous “Golden Spike” photo taken at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869, “S.S.” Montague is pictured on the left shaking hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific. One of the resulting artistic creations which came about from this experience can be seen below.
Davis’s resume lists numerous exhibitions, dozens of solo and group shows, publications, and important collections that include his work. Over the years, he has received multiple awards and accolades. His work now continues to be represented by Beacon Gallery.
“My abstract paintings are based on details of my buildings and my sculptures.
In the case of the building, a corner view is selected to show the intersection of colors and adjacent shadows. The colors are selected to be representative of the area; the barn red, the white of the village-green, the Cape Cod yellow of New England, and the pale adobe colors of New Mexico. In all cases, the shadows are included to induce the third dimension.
The paintings are generated from my architectural drawings, which have been surveyed to yield visually stimulating compositions. Colored paper maquettes are made to study the proportions and color relationships. From these paper studies, candidates are culled to be enlarged into paintings. A single building may result in several paintings, which depict its diverse features…
Paintings are also generated from my sculptures. The sides are colored to convey a concept and to represent a particular locale. The sculpture becomes a mandrel, or mannequin, onto which the color system is applied.
The materials of the paintings are hardboard, also called Masonite, and flat interior Benjamin Moore latex paint. The sturdiness recalls the construction of the subjects. The painting is held off the wall three quarters of an inch by the wood ‘strainer’ on the back. This stiffens the one-eighth inch thick hardboard and supports the hanging wire. The fabrication results in a reveal and a natural shadow.”
Stay tuned for more to come on Malcolm Montague Davis’s meticulous process and, in particular, the signature creation models crafted for use in translating reality into abstract geometry. From scenes of nature to depictions of proposed industrial systems around the United States, Davis’s works hold, behind each of them, a diligent and detailed perspective and plan. Make sure to keep up with Beacon Gallery’s blog, as well as our “Behind The Art” posts on Instagram, to learn more about the life and work of the late contemporary visionary, Malcolm Montague Davis.
In honor of the artist’s life and work, Beacon Gallery will be hosting an open house on March 12th, 2022 from 12-7 pm. The gallery will be open for browsing, to learn more and experience a lifetime representation of Davis’s work, with accompaniment of Davis’s life partner, Faith, and friends present. Please join us in celebration of Malcolm Montague Davis!
All of Davis’s available works can be found on on Beacon Gallery’s website, here.
For all other inquiries, please feel free to reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org