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FRANK BOWLING

works from the studio

Curator: Spencer Richards

September 25th - November 1st, 2003


Press Release

Skoto Gallery is pleased to present Works from the Studio - an exhibition of paintings by Frank Bowling curated by Spencer Richards. This is the third occasion that Mr. Bowling's work will be on display at the gallery. A reception for the artist is scheduled for Thursday, September 25th, 6-8pm.

One of the most important artist of his generation, Mr. Bowling has spent over forty years in total dedication to the practice and career in art. The axiom of his consumate skill as a master has been over these years gloriously articulated, with a non-flagging intensity and energy on the surfaces of his pictures. Through them, he has extended the paradigms of abstraction, which by 1971 had become the mainstay of his vision.

His pictures are creations that seem to evolve from the collision of chance - chance which is conjured up then assembled through placement of color, drops of paint, rhythm of brushstroke or splash of beer to further explore expressions inherent but still hidden in abstract painting. Their construction is verified in many places - in his head, on the floor or on the wall - before they are stitched canvas to canvas, yielding surfaces which offer themselves to viewers scrutiny masked behind constantly surprising subtlety and occasionally capturing those fleeting moments of magic in picture making.

The pictures in this exhibition illustrate Mr. Bowling's longstanding preoccupation with recolonization of space, of weaving new commentaries around the narratives of the tradition in painting. There is a great deal of critical experience, of knowledge and admiration of other artists' researches in his dynamic abstractions as well as an ever sensitive deftly balanced interaction between modernism's formal concerns with a belief in the emotive potential of painting. In the arena of modernism, Bowling as an "outsider" clearly has not only mastered its tenets but extended them, and like the powerful phalanx of Black artists (some of whom have been on the scene since the dawn of the genre) has brought into the arena a different declaration and a new way of making art.

At the Royal College of Art in the 1960s Frank Bowling was one of the brightest of a young generation of painters which included David Hockney, Boshier and Peter Phillips who were soon to initiate the next phase in the evolution of British art. Bowling's famous painting "The Staircase" synthesized into one huge canvas all the stylistic concerns of the period and in doing so created a new pictorial strategy, namely, making a unified pictorial field with compositional elements belonging to different formal styles.

Frank Bowling's work works are in several public and private collections around the world including the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, West Indies; Tate Gallery, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; De Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas; Lloyd's of London and The New Jersey Museum of Art, Trenton, New Jersey. Some of his "map" paintings fom the late 1960s and early 1970s were included in FAULTLINES: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes at the recent 50th Venice Biennale.



FRANK BOWLING: works from the studio

By Carl hazlewood

The late poet/politician, Martin Carter of Guyana wrote in "Man and Making - Victim and Vehicle" that "the concept of identity is a cultural concept, (....) closely related to the question of human power, by which I mean the capacity of a given person or a given people to make use in a beneficial way of such choices and opportunities as are made available to them by history"

An artist of international standing, Frank Bowling continues to make good use of opportunities whenever they have been available to him. Born in Guyana, South America in 1936 and living in Great Britain since the age of fourteen, it has not been an easy or straightforward path to whatever success he has attained. Modern art and its history is an expression of a specific Euro-identified-and-controlled-culture. As a black man of Caribbean origin living in England and the United States, the formulation and expression of Bowling's personal art has been necessarily affected by the tension of this complex reality.

In the same text, Martin Carter went on to say that "only through an examination of the present, the given of the now, can we put ourselves in a position to investigate consciousness, which itself is a function of human power."

In "the given of the now", "the human power" of the subtle, often magestrial works chosen for this exhibition by curator Spencer Richards, tells its own eloquent story. And while the artist's consciousness - his image, production and reception has been delimited in positive and sometimes negative ways as an after-effect of history, he remains focused upon his production as the ultimate proof of quality as compared to his well-known peers within the modern tradition.

In an upcoming catalog essay for another Bowling solo exhibition currently on view at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey, curator Dorothy Desir re-examines the modernist frame of reference usually used to situate or differentiate Frank Bowling's work relative to his Euro-American peers. She posits the process of creolization as a useful model for Bowling's development within "... the aesthetic sensibilities of the violently-mixed indigenous African and European cultures born of the earliest days of slavery and imperialism."

However in "Works from the Studio", one sees Bowling modestly seeking for himself only a private and individual poetic identity, rather than a political or ideological one. And in doing so, he has interjected his own cultural energy comprised of a complex of artistic accomplishment, social difference and personal experience into the onrushing stream of modern art history.

Frank Bowling's paintings can be found in collections around the world including the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey; The Tate Gallery in London; The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England as well as The Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York. Recent exhibitions include the 50th Venice Biennal, Venic, Italy in 2003.



Curator's Statement

"Works from the Studio" brings together select pieces that are but a partial glimpse of a private view that I've witnessed for the past several years as I continue to research Frank Bowling's career as an artist. These works are presented to the viewer for scrutiny in the democracy of their gaze.

In this endeavor I continue to be led by the ever moving presence of color stamped on the surfaces of these pictures and others stored in the racks of his respective studios in London and Brooklyn.

As witness to the making of some of them, the stationary present continues to give clues of their connection with the past, to not only Bowling's oeuvre, but beyond his studio to the traditions in which this work is declared.

Photographing this process of a work's development creates frozen moments as shifting planes of these traditions are concertized and re-arranged. Canvas grows in constant motion, as it is moved to be viewed from different perspectives. From floor to wall and from wall to floor, imperceptibly, the weaving together of intersecting geometries is complete.

Bowling has repeatedly made claims as to how good his art is and I constantly test the veracity of that statement by listening, reading, looking and visiting galleries and museums comparing pictures to what I see in the studio, My eyes tell me that in all this Bowling's claim is substantiated.

Spencer Richards
Brooklyn, NY
September 2003