NORMAN LEWIS ON THE PERIPHERAL: THE RELATIONSHIP OF AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ARTIST AND THE ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST MOVEMENT THROUGH THE DECADES, 1930-1950
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Abstract Expressionism took the American Art World by storm. However, the contribution of African America artist Norman Lewis is often overshadowed. In recent years Lewis has come to light as a significant artist involved with this movement, although there has been little research identifying this. My research identifies three decades of Lewis’s career as a working artist from 1930- 1950 and examines how the style of his work, politics and society form ideals on his position with the art group. The current history on Lewis is placed within the post colonial theory of race, my research will give a greater understanding into political and social concerns. Lewis’s ethnicity is problematic throughout the whole of his life and career and will evidently still be a concern. One of the main arguments sees that the U.S government has a hold over Lewis’s style and meeting the government criteria is crucial in the development of his career. A formalist approach will be taken to examine Lewis’s paintings, analysing the history and progress of his style of painting through compositional elements. Another methodological approach which is used is the social history of art, notions of the patrons and commissions are raised, the two methodologies will be incorporated together in the attempt to better understand Lewis’s position in the New York art scene. The evidence provided within this paper suggests that whilst there is a major concern with Civil Rights, Lewis who was an intellectual and did not shy away from the art scene in New York, he chose his path which diverged him away from the current art scene, he was extremely experimental with his style of painting throughout the three decades and had a desire to explore this.
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