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Evolution of Frank Bowling

MIKE McGEE | 4/6/2015, 9:19 a.m.
“In my youth I tend to look at the tragic side of human behavior and try to reflect that in ...
Frank Bowling at a gallery featuring his works of abstract art. Frank Bowling’s photo gallery

The Dallas Examiner

“In my youth I tend to look at the tragic side of human behavior and try to reflect that in my work,” explained artist Frank Bowling during an interview on TateShots, a video art blog. “But gradually as I became more involved in the making of paintings, I realized that one of the main ingredients in making paintings is color – and geometry – and I found that this is one of the places that I felt the most comfortable. And I’ve been going along that track every since.”

Gavin Delahuntui, the Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, described British artist Bowling as a living artist recognized not only for his contribution to abstraction but also for his advocacy of other Black artists. Bowling specializes in large abstract canvases. The painter’s exhibit, Frank Bowling: Map Paintings, is currently featured at the Dallas Museum of Art until Aug. 2.

Bowling’s history holds as much color and complexity as his art. Born in Guyana, South America, in February 1936, Bowling moved to England in 1950 and was educated at the Royal College of Art in London from 1959 to 1962 where he studied alongside artists David Hockney and R. B. Kitaj.

“Following his graduation at the Royal College Frank felt compelled to seek out new art and new ideas,” Delahuntui said. “That vast compulsion drove him.”

He further explained that a move to the U.S. around 1968 found Bowling searching and working during a period of time when a new movement was taking place in painting.

“There was a lot of excitement, there was a lot of dynamism, there was a lot experimentation, playfulness, and it was within that context that Frank produced a number of what are called map paintings which have gone on to have an incredible impact [on] both art right at that moment when they were first displayed in the Whitney Museum in 1971 and have continued to have resonance for both his peers, but also contemporary practitioners today,” the curator elaborated.

The five paintings hanging in the Nancy and Tim Hanley Gallery at the DMA are massive, wall-covering pieces that Delahuntui revealed were created while Bowling would push and sweep copious amounts of bright, contrasting pigments as the canvas was laid out upon a floor. According to a statement released by the DMA, one painting, Marcia H Travels, is the first of Bowling’s work that the museum has acquired for its permanent collection. The artist traced projected images of Guyana, Africa and South America onto the canvas to create his vibrant continents and oceans. Bowling had a “drive” to create the unusual works, Delahuntui said.

“I think the roots of that are from his time at the Royal College.” He described artists of that era as “deconstructing” long-established painting traditions.

“Where once the painting was perspective and a kind of trickery and [now] artists were interested in the reality of painting. The fact of the paint being paint and canvas being canvas and what was the potential of paint and painting in the 20th century,” he explained. “He was born in Guyana and that, the palette of that part of the world, infused his painting. Even for his contemporaries at that time Frank’s palette was even more radical than theirs.”