Featured African American

African American abstract artists

Author:

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Tradition:

Contemporary

"...the aim of the artist must certanly be aesthetic development, and in a universal good sense, to produce in the very own method some contribution to culture."

"for quite some time, we, also, struggled single-mindedly to express social dispute through my artwork. But slowly we came to understand that specific things are true: The development of one’s visual capabilities is suffering from these types of emphasis; the information of undoubtedly imaginative work must be naturally aesthetic and/or work becomes just another kind of example; for that reason, the aim of the musician should be aesthetic development, plus a universal feeling, to create in the very own way some share to culture.”[1]

a native of the latest York City, Norman Wilfred Lewis was created to Bermudan immigrants Diana and Wilfred Lewis. The Lewis family lived on Lennox Avenue, as well as nearly all of Norman’s youth, they certainly were mostly of the black colored families in Harlem, a personal experience that made him conscious of racial inequality from an early on age. As a youth, Lewis held numerous jobs throughout their schooling but understood he wanted to be an artist from age of nine. As he was about twenty, Lewis discovered focus on a freighter and spent many years traveling throughout South America and also the Caribbean, satisfying the folks and witnessing firsthand the poverty of Bolivia, Uruguay, Jamaica, and elsewhere. Upon his come back to the usa, Lewis decided back New York City.

During the early 1930s, Lewis came across Augusta Savage, who ran an arts school in Harlem and had been associated with lobbying the Functions Progress Administration (WPA) to employ more black colored musicians. From 1933 to 1935, he took classes during the Savage School of Arts and Crafts and went to Columbia University. Lewis’s deep commitment to social and economic equality led him to participate the Artists Union, which was organized to protect the rights of performers and employees, and to help found the Harlem Artists Guild in 1935. The Guild lobbied for and won federal capital the Harlem Community Arts Center. In 1936, he began employed by the WPA’s Federal Arts venture, training courses at newly formed Harlem center (in which William H. Johnson also taught) and also at the George Washington Carver School, in which peers included Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White. Lewis’s art during the time had been grounded in social realism and centered on the life and battles of black People in the us. However in the 1940s, he began to explore abstraction. While he stayed mixed up in challenge for civil rights throughout his life, Lewis was skeptical concerning the energy of art to result change, outlining in a 1968 meeting, “one of things within my self-education, had been the discouraging proven fact that painting pictures of protest didn't bring about any change.”[2]

In 1945, Alain Locke included Lewis’s operate in the exhibition The Negro Artist Comes of Age, as well as the following 12 months, Lewis joined the growing amount of New York abstract performers represented because of the Marian Willard Gallery. From their first solamente show at Willard in 1949 toward mid-1950s, Lewis’s reputation steadily grew, and then he developed his own individual style consisting of calligraphic, liquid types recommending categories of numbers engaged in kinetic task. Taking a trip in the same groups as prominent abstractionists, Lewis befriended Ad Reinhardt, Jackson Pollack, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning. In 1950, he had been truly the only black colored singer to be involved in the popular closed-door sessions determining abstract expressionism presented at Studio 35 and arranged by de Kooning and Kline. Annually later, MoMA included his work with the event Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America. Despite a decade of creative success and regularly positive reviews, Lewis never received the type of recognition and financial success their white peers liked, plus it was only in the late twentieth-century that his work started to occupy a central place in histories of United states art. Lewis himself was alert to this disparity as well as the associated expectation in the art world at that time that African United states performers document “the black colored knowledge.”

Throughout their job, Lewis pursued their unique artistic eyesight while also remaining committed to their governmental values and focused on the individuals of Harlem. He was a founding person in the Spiral Group (1963), which desired to play a role in the Civil Rights movement through artistic arts. From 1965 to 1971, he taught for HARYOU-ACT, Inc. (Harlem Youth doing his thing), an antipoverty program designed to motivate teenage boys and ladies to stay in school. He joined up with Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Clifford Joseph, Roy DeCarava, Reginald Gammon, Henri Ghent, Raymond Saunders, Alice Neel, yet others in picketing the infamous 1969 Harlem back at my notice show in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and therefore same year, with Bearden and Ernest Crichlow, Lewis co-founded Cinqué Gallery, focused on cultivating the careers of promising performers of color. A recipient of a National Endowment the Arts Grant (1972) and a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1975), Lewis got their first retrospective exhibition in 1976 during the CUNY scholar Center, ny. Lewis passed away in his home town in 1979 and it has since already been the main topic of solo events on Studio Museum in Harlem and Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

[1] Norman Lewis in his 1949 application for a Guggenheim Fellowship printed in Norman Lewis: from Harlem Renaissance to Abstraction, Kenkeleba Gallery, 1989, p.63.

[2] dental record meeting with Norman Lewis, 1968 July 14, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. (accessed February 2009).

Source: demazia.org
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