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Frank Bowling, 37528, 2008
Acrylic on canvas, 32 x 29 inches
Born in British Guyana, painter Frank Bowling belongs to the generation of British artists that came of age in the sixties. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1962, along with David Hockney and R. B. Kitaj, he, like Hockney, found his artistic identity in America. Unlike Hockney’s, however, Bowling’s art is rooted in abstraction owing to the abstract expressionist tradition of Mark Rothko. Vigorously dripping and pouring paint in lustrous accretions, he creates texturally complex paintings in which he plays with structure through collaged and brightly painted shapes. He was elected in 2005 as the first black member of England’s Royal Academy.
Frank Bowling moved in 1950 to England, where he fulfilled his National Service obligation by serving in the Royal Air Force. Turning at first to poetry and art, he then attended a number of English art schools, including the Royal College of Art, to which he won a scholarship. He wrote a thesis on Piet Mondrian at the college, which later led to his improvisations on Fibonacci postulations in his work. On his graduation in 1962 he was awarded the Silver Medal in Painting and a traveling scholarship to South America and the Caribbean.
Although he occasionally created sculpture, Frank Bowling began his career as a painter of expressionist figural works that accessed trans-cultural traditions and social and political narratives. He developed a more geometric conception of space in the mid-1960s, encompassing traditions of Western painting, such as the axioms of Mondrian and J. Hambidge’s Elements of Dynamic Symmetry. His Big Bird (1965) won the Grand Prize for Contemporary Arts at the First World Festival of Negro Arts, held at Dakar, Senegal, in 1965.
Frank Bowling, who had first visited New York City in 1961, established residence in the city in 1966. It was at that time that he turned to abstraction as a way of liberating his paintings from overt messages and to explore pure pictorial concerns within the framework of Color Field painting. Increasing the size of his canvases, he began to paint works pinned to the wall or set on the floor of his studio. Bowling also turned to oil for its subtlety, rather than relying on the water-based acrylics he had used earlier. By the 1970s color became his main concern, and he replaced the earthy tones of his earlier works with high-key hues set within animated, fluid surfaces. In 1971 the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, held a one-person exhibition of Bowling’s work, featuring six of his large canvases measuring nine by twenty-two feet. Critic Robert Doty called these works “a culmination of his search with ‘maps.’” Bowling met the noted critic Clement Greenberg in the same year, and Greenberg gave Bowling advice over many years, encouraging his commitment to modernism.
In the mid-1970s Frank Bowling began to create smaller , which had a more spontaneous effulgence. In works of the 1980s he created surfaces that were harder worked and in which he attached chunks of Styrofoam with serrated edges infused with paint in geometric formations. This work was observed by the New York Times critic Vivien Raynor to be a cross between African fetish and the dribbled images of Jackson Pollock. Bowling has continued to push his exploration of collaged and painted shapes, thickly globbed pigments and lyrically moving passages of color, at times evincing a geometric underpinning and at others breaking free from a structural framework. In 1987 the Tate Gallery in London purchased Bowling’s Spread Out Ron Kitaj, which was the first work by a living black British artist ever to be acquired by the museum.
In addition to painting, Frank Bowling has been active as a writer on art. From 1969 to 1972 Bowling worked as a contributing editor to Arts magazine, in which he wrote reviews of exhibitions in New York and London. He also wrote a series of essays on modernism and the contributions of black artists.
Bowling has played a role in many institutions in America and abroad, including the University of Reading; Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, London; Maidstone College of Art, Kent; Kingston School of Art, Surrey; The Byam Shaw, London; the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, New York; Columbia University, New York; Rutgers University, New Jersey; the School of Visual Arts, New York; and Mass Art, Boston. The artist has received numerous awards and fellowships including two Guggenheim fellowships, in 1967 and 1973. Bowling has had numerous solo exhibitions at galleries, museums, and art centers in London and New York, as well as in other cities in Europe.
Frank Bowling’s work is represented in major public collections around the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England; Lloyds of London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum, New York; the Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas; the New Jersey Museum of Art, Trenton; the Currier Gallery, Manchester, New Hampshire; the Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Guyana National Collection, Castellani House, Georgetown, Guyana; the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Kresge Art Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing; the Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase; Rhode Island School of Design, Providence; Royal College of Art, London; University of Liverpool; University of Delaware; Royal Academy of Arts, London; and the National Gallery of Jamaica, West Indies.
Frank Bowling currently splits his time between London and New York.
© The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery, LLC and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery, LLC, and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from Spanierman Gallery, LLC, nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery, LLC.
1936, born Bartica, Essequibo, British Guiana
1962, received M.F.A., Royal College of Art, London
Currently resides in London and Brooklyn, New York
Grabowski Gallery, London, 1962
Grabowski Gallery, London, 1963
Terry Dintenfass, New York, 1966
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1971
Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York, 1973
Gallery Center for Inter American Relations, New York, 1973-4
Noah Goldowsky Gallery, New York, 1974
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1975
William Darby, London, 1975
Watson/ de Nagy and Company, Houston, Texas, 1976
William Darby, London, 1977
Acme Gallery, London, Selected Paintings 1976-77, 1977
Polytechnic Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, Frank Bowling Retrospective, 1978
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1979
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1980
Vecu, Antwerp, Belgium, 1981
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1982
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1983
Serpentine Gallery, London, 1986
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1986
Arcade Gallery, Harrogate, 1986
Castlefield Gallery, Manchester, 1988
Municipal Art Gallery, Limerick, Ireland, 1988
Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland, 1988
The Senate House, University of Liverpool, 1988
Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, 1989
University Art Gallery, Reading, Bowling Through the Decade, 1989.
The Royal West of England Academy, Bristol, 1990.
Wilmer Jennings at Kenkeleba, New York, 1991
National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1993
Heimatmuseum, Eckernforde, Schleswig Holstein, Germany, 1993
AFTU/ Bill Hodges Gallery, New York, 1995
The Cut Gallery, Waterloo, London, 1995
Leicester City Gallery, Bowling Through the Century, 1996
Gallery 11, University of Bradford, Yorkshire, 1997
DE LA WARR Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex, 1997
South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, Berkshire, 1997
The Herbert Art Museum & Gallery, Coventry, 1997
Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham, 1997
The Cut Gallery, Waterloo, London, 1997
The YAA Asantewaa Arts Centre, Paddington, London, 1997
Center for Art & Culture, Skylight Gallery, Restoration Plaza, Brooklyn, New York, 1997
Camille Love Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia, 1997
Christiane Nienaber Gallery, New York, 1997
Rush Arts Gallery, New York, 1998
UFA Gallery, Chelsea, New York, 1999
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Chicago, 2000
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, 2000
Peg Alston Fine Arts, New York, 2000
Georgetown Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2001
UFA Gallery, Chelsea, New York, 2001
Rohde und Nerlich, Berlin, Germany, 2001
Peg Alston Fine Arts, New York, 2002
Outfitters Gallery, Margate, Kent, 2003
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Detroit, Michigan, 2003
Aljira, A Center for the Arts, Newark, New Jersey, Bending The Grid, 2003
Skoto Gallery, Chelsea, New York, 2003
Delibar, Charterhouse Street, London, What’s Underneath, 2003
Heidi Cho Gallery, Chelsea, New York, 2004
Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 4 Decades
with Color, 2004
Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2004
Broadbent Gallery, London, 2004
Peg Alston Fine Arts, New York, 2005
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Detroit, Michigan, Full of Light, 2005
G. R. N’Namdi Gallery, Chicago, 2006
G. R. N’Namdi Gallery, New York, 2006
Rollo Contemporary Art, London, The White Paintings, 2006
ArtSway, Sway, Hampshire, 2006
Sir Hugh Casson Room for Friends of the Royal Academy, Royal Academy of Arts,
London, Frank’s Colour, 2006-7
Peg Alston Fine Arts, New York, 2007
The Arts Club, Dover Street, London in collaboration with Rollo Contemporary Art, 2007
The Gallery, The Arts Institute at Bournemouth, Dorset, Big Paintings, 2008.
University of Wolverhamption School of Art+Design, 2008
Poussin Gallery, London, Pondlife and other paintings, 2008
Rollo Contemporary Art, London, New York Works, 2008
G.R. N’Namdi Galleries (Detroit, Chicago, New York), 2008
Winchester Discovery Centre, Hampshire, Frank Bowling, OBE, RA: Paintings, 2009
Clifford Chance, Canary Wharf, London, Light and Water: Frank Bowling RA Big Paintings, 2009
Rollo Contemporary, London, Zippers, New Pictures, 2009
Rollo Contemporary Art, London, Frank Bowling – Recent Paintings, 2010
Spanierman Modern, New York, Frank Bowling O.B.E., RA: Paintings 1974-2010, 2010
Royal Academy of Arts, UK, Frank Bowling Works on Paper, 2011.
Rollo Contemporary, London, Recent Works, 2011.
Rollo Contemporary, London, Works on Paper, 2011.
Rollo Contemporary, London, Crossings, 2011.
Royal Academy, Burlington House, UK, Frank Bowling New Works on Paper, 2011.
Hales Gallery, London, Enter the Dragon, 2011.
Tate Britain, London, Frank Bowling, 2011-12.
Tate Britain, London, Drop, Roll, Slide, Drip. Frank Bowling's Poured Paintings 1973-
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Royal Academy, London, Summer Exhibition, 1990
Kenkeleba House, New York (traveled to Cleveland Institute of Art), The Search for
Freedom: African American Abstract Painting 1945-75, 1991.
State University of New York, New Paltz, 1991.
Crane Gallery, London, Affinities in Paint, 1991.
Greenwich Citizens Gallery, London, 1991.
Lanchester Gallery, Coventry Polytechnic, 1991.
South London Gallery, 2nd Coming, 1992.
Whitechapel Gallery, London, Whitechapel Open, 1992”
Dakar Biennale, Dakar , Senegal, West Africa (traveled to Abidjan, Ivory Coast), A/
Cross currents, synthesis in African American Abstract Painting, 1992.
Fitchburg Museum, Massachusetts, Landscape as Metaphor: the Transcendental Vision,
Newport Art Museum, Rhode Island, 1993.
Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, Maine, 1993.
Brenau University, Gainsville, Georgia, Gala, 1994.
Clove Gallery, Butlers Wharf, London, 1994.
Skoto Gallery, New York, 1994.
Camille Love Gallery, Atlanta, Dimensions of Guyana, 1994.
Center for Fine Arts, Miami, Caribbean Visions: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture,
New Orleans Museum of Art, 1994.
The Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1994.
School 33 Art Center, Baltimore, Maryland, Abstract in Black, 1995.
Skoto Gallery, New York, 1996.
Harlech Biennale 1996, Wales, 1996.
Mall Galleries, London, The Discerning Eye, 1996.
Tribes Gallery, New York, For the Young Collector, a k a Small Gems, 1996-7.
Skylight Gallery, Center for Art and Culture, Brooklyn, New York, Skylight Gallery
Holiday Exhibition, 1997-8.
Cinque Gallery, New York, In The Spirit, 1997-8.
CUNY, The Institute For Research On the African Diaspora in the Americas and the
Caribbean, Space, Time & Object – Black Abstractionists, 1997-8.
Judith Klein Gallery, New York, Celebration [Significant Smaller works], 1997-8.
Tribes Gallery, New York, A year in the Life of Present Modernism, 1997-8.
O. K. Harris Gallery, New York, The Fanelli Show, 1998.
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey, The African-American Fine Arts
Collection of the New Jersey State Museum, 1999.
Kenkeleba Gallery, New York, 19TH & 20TH Century: African American Art, 2000.
The Custom House Gallery, Mill Dam, South Sheilds, Tyne & Wear, England, In A
Marine Light, 2000.
City Gallery East, Atlanta, Georgia, African American Abstraction, 2000.
Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York, Jazz and Visual Improvisation, 2001.
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Chicago, Take Five, 2001.
Peg Alston Fine Arts, New York, Group Show 2002, 2002.
G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Detroit, Forms of Abstraction 111. Abstract Works From The 60s,
70s, & 80s: Bowling, Clark, Edwards, Gilliam, Hunt, Hutson, Loving, Pindell. Whitten, 2002.
Sugar Hill Art Center, Harlem, New York, Six American Masters—Bowling, Carter,
Clark, Hutson, Loving, Pindell, 2002.
Gallery, Lincoln, England, Tate Unseen, Living Artists from the Tate Storeroom, 2002.
Jack Tilton/Anna Kustera Gallery, New York, No Greater Love, Abstraction, 2002.
Woodlands Gallery, Greenwich, London, England, London Group, 2002.
Broadbent Gallery, Notting Hill, London, The Painted Path, 2002.
Director Institute of International Visual Arts, London, Faultlines: Contemporary African
Art and Shifting Landscapes, 2002.
Venice, 50th Venice Biennale, 2002.
Outfitters Gallery, Margate, Kent, England, Not Just For Christmas: Visual Art With Life
and Soul, 2002.
Pilgrim Gallery, London, England, Confluence, 2002.
The Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
(traveled to The Heckscher Museum of Art, New York; Beach Museum of Art, KSU, Kansas; California African-American Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Texas Tech University; Flint Institute of Arts, Michigan; Morris Museum of Art, Georgia; Robeson Galleries, Penn State University), Something to Look Forward To: An exhibition featuring abstract art by 22 distinguished Americans of African Descent, 2004-8.
Tate Britain. London, This Was Tomorrow; Art and the 60s, 2004.
Savacou Gallery, New York, Ill’lusion, 2004.
University of Delaware, A Century of African American Art: The Paul R Jones Collection,
Bankside Gallery, London, The London Group Annual Exhibition, 2005.
The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, Energy/ Experimentation: Black Artists, 1964
– 1980, 2006.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York, Unstitched, Unbound: Imprints for
G.R.N’Namdi Galleries (New York, Detroit, Chicago), 25th Anniversary Exhibition: Forms of Abstraction, 2007.
Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland, [c] artography – Map – Making As ARTFORM,
Muzeum Aztuki, Lodz, Poland, Swingujacy London,Kolekcja Grabowskigo [Swinging
London, Collection of Grabowski], 2007.
Jubilee Library, Brighton, England, Redemption Song, 2008.
Menier Gallery, Southwark Street, London, The London Group, 95th Anniversary Exhibition, 2008.
The Discovery Centre, Winchester, Hampshire, 2009.
Spanierman Modern, New York, Mark of the Hand, 2009.
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London, 2009.
Spanierman Modern, New York, Gallery Selections, 2009.
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida, Expanding Boundaries: Lyrical Abstraction, 2009.
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, British
Subjects: Identify and Self-Fashioning 1965-2009, 2009.
University Museums, Mechanical Hall Gallery, University of Delaware, Sound: Print:
Record: African American Legacies, 2009.
University Museums, Mechanical Hall Gallery, University of Delaware, Abstract Relations,
Anita Shapolsky Gallery, New York, African American Masters of Abstraction, 2010.
Tate Liverpool, England, Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, 2010.
Poussin Gallery, London, Poussin Review 2010: New to Sight, 2010.
London Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Brompton Hall, The Modern & Contemporary Latin
American Art Show, 2010.
New York, The Modern & Contemporary Latin American Art Show, 2010.
The Cello Factory, London, The London Group Annual Exhibition, 2010.
Spanierman Modern, New York, Gallery Selections, 2010.
Royal Academy, London, Summer Exhibition, 2011.
The Cello Factory, London, Frank Bowling & Graham Mileson: Paintings, 2011.
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, British Design 1948—2012, 2012.
SELECTED PUBLIC AND CORPORATE COLLECTIONS
American Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, New York
Arts Council of Great Britain
Boca Raton Museum, Florida
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon
Chase Manhattan Bank, New York
Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, London
Crawford Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire
Guyana National Collection, Castellani House, Georgetown
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, England
Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York
Kresge Art Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing
Lloyds of London
London Borough of Southwark
Menil Foundation, Houston, Texas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston
Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton
Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation, Toledo, Ohio
Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Port Authority of New York, World Trade Center
Royal Academy of Arts, London
Royal College of Art, London
Tate Gallery, London
University Museums, University of Delaware, Newark
University of Liverpool
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1962 Royal College of Art, Silver Medal
1963 Calouste-Gulbenkian Foundation, Painting Purchase Award
1966 First World Festival of Negro Art, Dakar, Senegal, Grand Prize for Contemporary
1967 Painting Prize, Edinburgh Open 100, Edinburgh, Scotland
1967 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship
1973 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship
1975 New York State CAPS Award
1977 Arts Council of Great Britain Award
1992 Pollock Krasner Award
1998 Pollock Krasner Award
2006 Honorary Fellow, The Arts Institute at Bournemouth, Dover, England
2007 Honorary Doctorate, University of Wolverhampton, England
2008 Order of the British Empire. Painter and Writer and Services to Art