Frank Bowling - Breaking ground overseas

Frank Bowling O.B.E. RA (b. 1936) migrated from Guyana to London in 1953. A few years after his move in 1959 Bowling began his art studies at the Royal College of Art. He graduated in 1962 amid rave reviews and secured for himself a silver medal in Painting, second only to the English artist David Hockney. Bowling’s first solo exhibition “Image in Revolt” was held at Grabowski Galleries in London, the same year he graduated.

Success continued to follow him after the completion of his studies. In 1967 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and decided to take his art practice to New York. Between the years 1969 and 1972 Bowling was a contributing editor at Arts Magazine. He also lectured at several tertiary institutions including the University of Reading; Massachusetts College of Art; Rutgers; and Columbia University.

In 1987, the Tate acquired his “Spreadout Ron Kitaj” painting, making him the living black British artist to have work purchased by the gallery. Bowling would go on to break yet another record, this time in 2005 when he became the first black artist to be elected to England’s Royal Academy of Art at their Piccadilly, London location. Bowling was also appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

Bowling’s works have been exhibited worldwide including Guyana, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. His works are housed in a number of permanent collections including the Metropolitan Museum (New York); the Museum of Modern Art (New York); the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); the Tate Gallery (London); Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); Royal Academy of Arts (London); and the Victoria & Albert Museum (London).

The visual aesthetic of his works has shifted over the years from being figurative to geometric and finally to pure abstract concerns of colour and composition. Bowling has since been regarded as the leading Colour Field painter who rose to fame, following his invention of a mechanical aid that he would use to create his spontaneous and energetic “Poured Paintings.”

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