IN ART, STYLE IS NEVER only technique or mannerism; it is everything. Style articulates difference as sameness. In nature, samenesses are distributed as differences. The Chihuahua, fox terrier, and Great Dane are all dogs. All the varieties of oaks are recognizable by their leaves, which are more alike than unlike. In art, style makes, as we can say, all the difference.

When Stuart Davis was in Paris for fifteen months in 1928 and 1929 he saw styles—Leger’s, Mondrian’s, Delaunay’s—of radical individuality. He introduced the stylistic strategy that The Paris Bit realizes in full maturity: making visual information into signs, much as Art Deco designers made trademarks for industry or boldly simplified posters.

In Davis’ native Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin had once shown a hatter that he didn’t need a wordy sign on his shop front: Ben sophisticated it all into a painting of a hat. This

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