Saturday, November 1, 2014

Norman Lewis, Untitled

Norman Lewis, Untitled, 1949
20x30 in.

The other day I went to the Jewish Museum to see their exhibition From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945-1952.  The exhibit was a tribute to these two artists who were marginalized in the Abstract Expressionism movement, one for her gender, the other for his race.  It was a wonderful exhibit, and a great chance to see these artists featured (even if the reality of their careers and difficulties was a bit more nuanced than what the exhibit presented).  I've already written about a Lee Krasner painting (which was included in the exhibit) so decided to feature Norman Lewis today.

Norman Lewis (1909-1979) was born in Harlem to immigrant parents from Bermuda.  He demonstrated an interest in art from an early age and always knew he wanted to be a painter.  During his lifetime he was acquainted with Abstract Expressionists, including working on WPA projects with Jackson Pollock, and most of his work fits squarely within that style, some also showing a Cubist influence.  The particular piece I chose had a strong impact on me at the museum.  Lewis was very influenced by jazz, and that is evident here.  The splashes of bright color and the strong vertical lines evoke the dynamic feeling of Harlem jazz.  Lewis's style is very lively and energetic, often demonstrating an inextricable entanglement of line and color.  Another painting that demonstrates these same elements is Twilight Sounds, which is one of Lewis's most explicitly musical paintings.  Additionally, it shows a certain peacefulness that settles over the city on a summer night.  Regardless of how much recognition Lewis received during his lifetime or since, he is a great painter who successfully captured the contemporary reality of his world.

From the Margins is on view through February 1st.  I highly recommend it.

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