|Artist Frank Bowling in his studio in South London. Photograph: David Levene. Source TheGuardian.com|
Later this month, the work of Frank Bowling, one of the most important painters of the 20th century, will be presented in an incredible exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich. This show, Frank Bowling: Mappa Mundi is curated by my brotherfriend and colleague Okwui Enwezor who has, more than any curator working today, organized some of the most sophisticated and paradigm-shifting exhibitions the modern/contemporary artworld has ever seen. This survey of Bowling's magisterial map paintings, shows why Bowling ought to have been positioned at the forefront of postwar painting, rather than as part of its marginalia. From what I have seen of its preparation, it is impossible to not ask how come this artist and his art had not been given a full-fledged exhibition by the same big time US and British modern art museums that fawn over white artists with half of Bowling's majestic painterly talent and accomplishment. I guess that's why Okwui's work in Munich and elsewhere matters.
I will be seeing the exhibition later this month, and will hopefully write more on it. Here below is the information about it, from the Haus der Kunst press room.
|Frank Bowling, Australia to Africa, 1971, acrylic on canvas, 280 x 712 cm. Courtesy Hales Gallery, London|
Frank Bowling: Mappa Mundi
June 23, 2017 - January 7, 2018
Preview for press on Thursday, June 22, 2017, 11 am
Opening on Thursday, June 22, 2017, 7 pm
With a podium conversation between Frank Bowling and Okwui Enwezor
With "Frank Bowling: Mappa Mundi" Haus der Kunst presents the most comprehensive overview the work of Frank Bowling (born in Bartica, British Guyana, in 1934) ever received.
In the aftermath of World War II, as part of the momentous wave of Anglophone West Indian and Caribbean populations that migrated to England, Frank Bowling left his native country at the age of 19, arriving in London in 1953. Later he would study painting at The Slade School, and Royal College of Art, distinguishing himself - next to David Hockney - with the silver medal for painting in RCA's 1962 graduating class.
Starting in the mid-1960s, Bowling began to surpass the rigid geometries of the pictorial field. The decisive moment of Bowling's artistic maturation was his move from London to New York in 1966. New York had produced postwar abstract painting of a certain scale and ambition. Bowling's painterly experimentation led him to consider how abstract painting could be invested with social, cultural, and personal meaning without losing the essential and formal principles still open to the medium.
The seminal "Map Painting" series would preoccupy him from 1967 to 1971. With this series, he began to summon some of the sociopolitical changes and radical cultural forces that were reshaping Western postindustrial society into his pictures. At the same times, the series expressed his understanding of identity. As a humanist and internationalist, being an artist of African descent born under colonial conditions in South America and living in New York, the topic had its complexity, more so in the high tide of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. The image and representation of the map - for example, South America in "South America Squared" (1967), became a metaphor in Bowling's work of home and exile. He developed a chromatic repertoire of dazzling colors and muted tones, of contrapuntal layers that evoked evanescent seascapes, geological landscapes, and liquefied magma.
As an essayist (for Arts Magazine among others), Bowling played an active role in the debates of institutional exclusion and media marginalization of black artists. In his paintings and writings, he opened a pathway toward the reconsideration of space and territory. It compelled him to tackle the idealism of mapping journeys and voyages of discovery upon which the colonization and domination of space occurred.
"As when first made, today these paintings remain unparalleled pictures of astonishing physical power", says Okwui Enwezor. "The imposing presence of Bowling's paintings, with their mists of muted colors and scumbled fiery substrates, evokes feelings of vast oceanic presence." Water was the omnipresent element in the artist's biography: From the marsh flats of British Guyana, where Bowling was raised; to the undertow of the Caribbean Sea that he sailed to escape the island existence; from the River Thames in London, to the hubbub of New York, where he honed his artistic voice.
Besides the "Map Paintings", objects-cum-paintings from the early 1980, the series "Great Thames", "Bartica Flats" and "Wintergreens" are on display, too. Material from the archives, such as the extensive correspondence with the eminent modernist critic Clement Greenberg, exhibition catalogues, reviews, and photography sheds light on Bowling's participation in the Black Arts debates in New York in the late 1960s and 1970s.
"Frank Bowling: Mappa Mundi" is curated by Okwui Enwezor with Anna Schneider. The exhibition is organized by Haus der Kunst and will travel to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), and to Sharjah Art Foundation.
The catalogue is published by Prestel, edited by Okwui Enwezor, with contributions by Frank Bowling, Okwui Enwezor, Rose Jones, Kobena Mercer, Anna Schneider, Zoe Whitley and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; English, with German booklet, 288 pages, 23 x 28,9 cm, hardcover, 49.95 €.
Images are available on our download area.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact:
Stiftung Haus der Kunst München, gemeinnützige Betriebsgesellschaft mbH
+49 89 211 27-115
+49 89 211 27-157 Fax
Direktor und Geschäftsführer: Okwui Enwezor
Kaufmännischer Leiter: Marco Graf von Matuschka
Vorsitzender des Aufsichtsrates: Staatsminister Dr. Ludwig Spaenle
Handelsregister München: HRB100018