“Lines Thicken: Stuart Davis in Black and White,” at the Kasmin gallery (through Dec. 21), shares an open secret of the irrepressible American modernist: drawing powers his paintings, even at their most colorful. These sixteen robust designs on paper, canvas, or board—in ink, gouache, or casein—amount to paintings in skeleton, displaying jazzy, indestructible linear networks, either edge to edge or afloat in pictorial space. The abstracted subjects include street and harbor scenes, still-lifes, and a study for the artist’s tour de force, the 1932 mural “Men Without Women,” in the men’s room of Radio City Music Hall. There’s chroma enough in the pictures’ white negative spaces. They sizzle. The excellence of the show’s selection makes this a brisk primer on the Parisian-informed genius of post-Cubist, proto-Pop form, who died in 1964, at the age of eighty-one. Davis took drawn line not for a walk, in the stated manner of Paul Klee, but for canters and gallops, with any willing viewer delightedly astride. —Peter Schjeldahl







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