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Frank Bowling OBE RA: Map Paintings

Frank Bowling, Mother's House on South America, 1968, acrylic on canvas, 233.5 x 122 cm.

Exhibition preview

AS PART of an ongoing series of shows devoted to the career of influential veteran painter Frank Bowling (Guyana 1934) Hales Gallery is presenting Map Paintings (1967-1971). The artist’s third solo show with the gallery, it will be on display from October 16 to November 23, 2013.

In 1967, having been resident in Britain for 15 years, Bowling was awarded a Guggenheim Scholarship and moved to New York City, where he lived in the notorious Chelsea Hotel and worked in a studio on Broadway, SoHo.

During these years, Bowling wrote for the influential Arts World magazine and was active in the civil rights struggle that black artists were pursuing to gain more visibility in American museums and galleries. In his studio, he was making one of his most significant bodies of work, which culminated in a historic solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971.

Both Jasper Johns and Larry Rivers (who had used maps as signifiers in paintings themselves) guided and mentored Bowling at this time, although Bowling’s use of “The Map” would come to take on a very different set of meanings with reference to his background in the Caribbean and black identity.

These vast paintings combine an emotive use of coloured stains and sprayed motifs and pave the way for Bowling’s formalist poured paintings made later in the decade.

A painting from this series, Polish Rebecca (1971), exhibited by Hales Gallery in early 2013 has served to mark the rediscovery of interest in these historically important paintings. This, coupled with the publication of Mel Gooding’s 2011 monograph, Bowling’s exhibition of 1970s poured paintings at Tate Britain (2012/13, curated by Courtney Martin) and the pioneering recent texts by Kobena Mercer, Kellie Jones and Dorothy C. Rowe in various publications, all have served to heighten interest in this period and these pioneering works.

Frank Bowling (b. 1934, Bartica, Guyana), is a British abstract painter whose works have been widely exhibited internationally. Exhibitions include solo shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1971); Bowling on through the century (1986), Serpentine Gallery; Frank Bowling: Bending to the Grid (2003), UK travelling exhibition; Drop, Roll, Slide, Drip…Frank Bowling’s Poured Paintings 1973-1978 (2012-2013), Tate Britain, London, and others.

Bowling’s work can be found in numerous prestigious public collections including Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Tate Gallery, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and many important and influential private collections.

Hales Gallery, Tea Building, 7 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA