Black in the Frank Bowling Fine Art at the MFA


BOSTON (October 5, 2022)—In 1966, driven by the desire to expand the possibilities of painting, Frank Bowling (born 1934) ventured to New York City. It was his second move across the Atlantic—he had previously left British Guiana, his birthplace, for London in 1953.

Over the next decade, during which New York was his primary residence, Bowling charted a journey of profound artistic discovery and self-determination. Debuting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), Frank Bowling’s Americas delves for the first time into this pivotal early chapter of the boundary-crossing artist’s career.

The exhibition brings together more than 30 of Bowling’s powerful paintings in the country of their making—including monumental, color-soaked canvases and rarely seen examples on loan from private collections.

Following its presentation at the MFA from October 22, 2022 through April 9, 2023, Frank Bowling’s Americas will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), where it will be on view from May 13 through September 10, 2023.

In conjunction with Frank Bowling’s Americas, the MFA has launched a yearlong cross-institutional partnership with UMass Boston and Stony Brook University, New York, where in 1969 Bowling organized 5+1.

The exhibition presented work by five African American artists with whom Bowling shared an interest in the possibilities of abstraction—Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Al Loving, Jack Whitten and William T. Williams—together with work by Bowling himself, the exhibition’s “plus one.”

Despite raising still-resonant questions around representation, agency and discriminatory institutional structures, 5+1 remains under-discussed, with few materials available for further research.

The MFA’s collaboration with undergraduate students at UMass Boston and doctorate researchers at Stony Brook explores the significance of 5+1 in 1969 and today through a digital project and satellite exhibitions at both universities opening in November 2022.
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