Saturday, May 20, 2023

Bowling With Color --- Day 12/145

Walk: No, Catch up on reading day

Distance: 0. yoga

Sir Richard Sheridan Patrick Michael Aloysius Franklin Bowling OBE RA, known as Frank Bowling,
(b. 1934), ca 1969 New York, British artist, born in Guyana, working in New York and London

So, knowing almost nothing about artist Frank Bowling, Ciwt went to the large current SFMOMA exhibition of his 1966-1975 New York paintings*.  These were the famous 'Ab Ex" years in New York, and it appears that expressive, exuberant style suited Bowling just fine.  His particular spin seemed to be his extravagant use of spray paints directly out of their cans.

The color fields Bowling achieved are stunning and masterful.  So at first Ciwt assumed Bowling was more or less randomly and freely enjoying the intensely vibrant almost day-glo colors of that era.  But most of the paintings also have in them stencilled maps of South America and his mother's fabric store in Guyana as well as other references to the land of Bowling's birth and childhood.  So Ciwt began to think perhaps the bright colors weren't playful and arbitrary but were deeply familiar and meaningful to Bowling.

Then she encountered a small but very telling video Bowling and a photographer friend made during an evening ride around Georgetown, Guyana and the pieces began falling into place for Ciwt.  Indeed his colors are authentic and deep within him.  

The Guyana flag: 
Surely is referenced in this painting:

Here is a still of Guyana at sunset from Bowling's video: 

And here it is again in Bowling's canvasses:

  Silhouette of Guyana home at evening from video.  And here are those colors in a monumental painting of the long, complex and frought route from Africa to South America. 

Skirt worn by woman dancing in the Guyana darkness: 

Shows up again on canvas 

There's a soul at work here.  Technically and intellectually an extremely powerful one.  Bowling's canvasses up close are a marvel.  Intense, layered, complex, beautiful. Fluid and not the least bit labored.  To Ciwt's eye, Bowling's work is head and shoulders above many of the now famous artists working in New York at the time.  He's not just expressing himself deeply, brilliantly, with great aliveness and drama, Bowling is expanding the range of what paint can do.   

Bowling has been knighted and is considered one of the greatest living British abstract painters. Why haven't we seen more of him over here in the States over the years?

I'm not the kind of person who believes making art is all about angst; I've always said that you have to have a good time when you go to the studio."  \
                                        Frank Bowling in a recent (2023) interview at SFMOMA


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