Little Giant Still Life (Primary Title)
The Champion (Alternate Title)
Based on an advertisement for spark plugs, this energetic still life underscores the creative link between fine art and commercial art. Davis dismissed “subject matter” as unimportant, using commonplace experiences and objects as points of artistic departure. He filtered this imagery through his own aesthetic sensibilities in order to arrive at the flat shapes he set down in crisp, vivid colors.
VMFA acquired Little Giant Still Life as a significant example of the latest currents in art production – much like that on display in the adjoining 21st-Century Art galleries. At the time of its controversial purchase from the museum’s 1950 biennial of contemporary painting – analyzed and hotly debated locally as well as in leading art journals – Cold War rhetoric had cast modern art as subversive and dangerous. Ultimately, abstraction was heralded as fully “American” – the product of a truly democratic society. Today an internationally recognized icon of mid-20th-century modernism, Little Giant Still Life is one of the most frequently lent and reproduced works in the museum’s collection.
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