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Corinne Robins

(b New Orleans, LA, May 6, 1926).

African American painter. Edward Clark experienced the excitement of being part of the younger generation of Abstract Expressionists and over a period of 50 years built up a solid body of work that has made something both unique and original out of his commitment to Jackson Pollock’s (1912–56) principles of action and spontaneity.

Born in New Orleans in 1926, Clark grew up in Chicago and, after studying at the Chicago Art Institute, took advantage of the GI Bill and went to Paris. There, he enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1951 and by 1952 came under the influence of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and of Cubism. In 1954, the American Center for Students and Artists became interested in the artistic activity in Montparnasse studios and presented an exhibition titled Grandes Toiles de Montparnasse, in which Clark participated and was described in a review in ...

Article

Sharon Matt Atkins

(b Oakland, CA, Aug 26, 1925; d Tucson, AZ, June 4, 2009).

American painter, printmaker and teacher. Colescott produced highly expressive and gestural paintings that addressed a wide range of social and cultural themes and challenged stereotypes. Interested in issues of race, gender and power, his work critiqued the representation of minorities in literature, history, art and popular culture. Stylistically, his work is indebted to European modernism, particularly Cubism and Expressionism, but also makes references to African sculpture, African American art and post–World War II American styles.

Colescott was introduced to art at an early age. His mother was a pianist and his father was a classically-trained violinist and jazz musician. Through his parents’ social circles, he often found himself surrounded by creative individuals as he was growing up, like his artistic mentor, the sculptor Sargent Johnson (1888–1967). Colescott received his BA in 1949 and later his MFA in 1952 from the University of California, Berkeley. He also studied with ...

Article

(b Tupelo, MS, Nov 30, 1933).

American painter. He studied at the University of Louisville, KY (1952–6; 1958–61). Gilliam’s first works showed the influence of Emil Nolde and Paul Klee and the Abstract Expressionist Nathan Oliveira. After marrying Dorothy Butler in 1962, he settled in Washington, DC. There he established contact with Gene Davis (1920–85), Tom Downing (1928–85), and Howard Mehring (1931–78), who represented a second wave of artists associated with colour-field painting. Gilliam became well known for his colour-field paintings and became the most prominent African American abstract painter, with seven one-man exhibitions at the Jefferson Place Gallery, Washington, DC, between 1965 and 1973. Characteristic works of the 1960s include Petals (1967; Washington, DC, Phillips Col.), in which loose canvas is stained with patterns of colour achieved by pigments poured over before it is folded and restretched to give a symphonic resonance. Later works, such as ...

Article

James Smalls

(b New York City, 1909; d New York City, Aug 27, 1979).

African American painter. Norman Lewis was the first major African American painter associated with Abstract Expressionism. His body of works includes paintings, drawings and murals. A life-long resident of Harlem, New York, he was influenced early on by the sculptor and teacher Augusta Savage, who provided him with open studio space at her Harlem Art Center. It was there that he studied African art intensely and was introduced to Alain Locke (1886–1954), Howard University professor and intellectual leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Lewis became familiar with Locke’s ideas but soon questioned the wisdom of creating an art based on an “African” or “Negro” idiom. He thought Locke’s concept of art was limiting and wanted instead to be considered as an artist in the broadest sense of the term rather than just a “Negro artist.” In moving towards this goal, he exhibited with the American Abstract Artists, participated in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) art projects alongside his friends ...