Frank Bowling: At Eighty
Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on April 24, 2014 of Frank Bowling, O.B.E., RA, an exhibition and sale of abstract canvases by an artist whose commitment to the primacy of the creative act of painting resonates throughout all of his art. His paintings, in which he blends together aspects of Abstract Expressionism, Process Art, Color Field Painting, and the craftsmanship tradition (to which his mother contributed through her work as a seamstress), have long been recognized for their optical and surface complexities. He continues to break new ground in the works in this exhibition, taking risks and exercising compromise and authoritative control in the exploration of new avenues. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with an essay by Jim Hunter, Professor Emeritus of Painting, The Arts University, Bournemouth, England.
Bowling, who currently divides his time between London and New York, was born in British Guyana. In the 1960s, he was at the forefront of a new generation of British artists. Among his classmates at the Royal College of Art, London, were David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Allen Jones, and Derek Boshier. On graduating in 1962 Bowling won a silver medal to Hockney’s gold, but departing stylistically from his contemporaries (who moved in the direction of Pop Art), Bowling found a basis for his work in the legacy of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, while drawing on the influence of Francis Bacon. Bowling’s art has received high honors throughout his career. He was the first black artist to be elected to the Royal Academy, London, and he was honored in 2008 with the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for his service to art. In 2011, a monograph on Bowling by Mel Gooding was published, and his work was featured in a solo show at the Royal Academy. In 2012, he was included in an important group exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and featured in a solo display at the Tate Britain, London.
Bowling’s method consists of working on unstretched canvas, which he often cuts or reassembles, stapling and gluing parts together. At times, he folds and rolls up a work to be finished at a later time in a different place, encompassing the theme of temporality. Receptive to new methods, he has developed many ways of pouring paint, including the use of a tilting board platform controlled by pegs, which enable him to determine the velocity of the paint’s downward movement. This exhibition includes works in which Bowling has deployed a number of new compositional and technical means. In Shadow Under and Yellow L and Rowers, he used a horizontal alignment of poured colors, producing a suggestion of propulsion through space and time. Strong landscape references are present in El Dorado, providing a reminder that Bowling has always been conscious of the Romantic painters and shared their ambition to create images of the sublime. The blue area at the bottom of the picture confounds our expectations, with its sense of aerial space. In some paintings such as Blue Top and About Yellow, by turning his poured paint to read right to left, Bowling has established a more frontal formation, in which bands of more naturalistic colorings are held in place by light, weightless space.
While each work is an individualistic experience, when seen together Bowling’s paintings seem part of the “artist’s laboratory” They carry on a dialogue in which their differences answer and support each other, affording a rich array of perceptual engagements.