“Modernism belonged to me also.” So resolved British Guiana-born artist Frank Bowling in 1966, when he moved from London to New York City, impelled by ambition to make his mark on modern painting. “Frank Bowling’s Americas” is the first exhibition dedicated to the transformative years the artist spent in the US, and the first major survey of his work by an American institution in more than four decades.
Bowling’s primary residence was New York from 1966 to 1975. In that time he came into contact with a vibrant and tumultuous art scene, with abstract painting on an explosive rise, heated debates unfolding around Black cultural identity and artistic practice, and Stokely Carmichael’s slogan “Black Power” emanating from the South. Over the course of the decade, Bowling wrote copiously for art magazines, held several teaching positions, exhibited widely, and in 1969 curated “5+1,” an exhibition of five leading African American abstract artists (Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Al Loving, Jack Whitten and William T. Williams) plus Bowling himself at Stony Brook University, New York. His experiences in the US catalyzed profound shifts in his painting, explored here through more than 30 works.
The exhibition brings together a range of Bowling’s powerful works in the country of their making – Pop-inflected paintings from the early 1960s; monumental, color-soaked canvases that evoke oceanic expanses; and little-seen examples of the artist’s technically pioneering paintings rooted in abstraction. Providing for the first time a nuanced encounter with this pivotal chapter of Bowling’s career, “Frank Bowling’s Americas” offers an essential contribution to a more cross-cultural and global understanding of modern art.