Marc Selwyn Fine Art is pleased to announce the gallery’s third exhibition with Sir Frank Bowling O.B.E., RA. Works on Paper: 2009- 2021 features a selection of recent paintings on paper exploring Bowling's continued commitment to expanding the possibilities of paint as he moves beyond the boundaries of his works on canvas.
A fully illustrated catalogue featuring an essay by curator Allegra Pesenti will be published on the occasion of the exhibition. In her essay, Pesenti traces Bowling’s history of working on paper over the course of his more than sixty-year career. During a recent visit to the artist’s studio in London, Pesenti described the relationship between Bowling’s recent works on paper and his works on canvas: “Paper no longer serves as a platform for exploration in relation to a work on canvas; rather, it acts as a surrogate surface with its own porous texture and luminous quality.”
In this exhibition, Bowling continues his alchemic explorations, combining acrylic and metallic paint with other innovative material interventions. Paint bleeds into the paper surface in swells of vibrant hues that prove the artist’s virtuosity as a colorist and often evoke light drenched landscapes and oceanic horizon lines. In some instances, paint is applied with deliberate intentionality. In others, materials pool and flow organically on the paper support. Pesenti describes this interplay as “Bowling’s unique form of automatic painting.”
While Bowling’s works on paper have their own distinct character, signature techniques utilized in Bowling’s works on canvas are also present in this exhibition. The diagonal cuts of pinking shears, an homage to childhood memories of his mother’s labor with fabric, are found in a number of pieces as are traces of daily life in the studio such as footprints, staples, and other accretions. In several of the earlier works in the exhibition, a grout rake is used to pull paint across the paper resulting in thick impasto lines that share both the weight and tactile presence of his works on canvas. These traces of a physical and embedded history have been critical to the artist’s oeuvre for decades.
Bowling began his career at the Royal College of Art after moving from British Guiana to London in 1953. During his time at the RCA, he studied alongside David Hockney and Peter Blake and became involved in the British Pop Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Aided by a Guggenheim Fellowship, Bowling moved to New York in 1966. Following a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1971 (in the same period as shows featuring Melvin Edwards, Jack Whitten, and Alma Thomas), Bowling met influential critic Clement Greenberg, who became a regular visitor to the artist’s studio and a major influence on his practice. With Greenberg’s advice and encouragement, any lingering doubts about his commitment to Modernism were abandoned, and Bowling began to progress further toward pure abstraction, removing all recognizable imagery to focus on process, materials, and color.
Bowling’s work can be found in fifty international museum collections including the 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 and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. Bowling’s work has been the subject of multiple museum exhibitions over the past fifty years, most recently including his 2019 retrospective at the Tate Britain, and a major solo show at the Haus Der Kunst, Munich which traveled to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and the Sharjah Art Foundation in Sharjah, UAE. In 2017, Bowling’s work was included in the landmark group exhibition ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’, which began its international tour at the Tate Modern, London before travelling to the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the de Young Museum, San Francisco; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; The Broad, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The artist’s forthcoming exhibition ‘Frank Bowling’s Americas’ will open at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in October 2022 before traveling to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2023.