The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts opens its doors this Friday, November 13 for a retrospective of great significance: Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis marks the first comprehensive museum look at the abstract expressionist’s work since his death in 1979.
Nearly 100 pieces on loan from both public and private collections comprise the expansive exhibition of work celebrating the Harlem-born artist — and PAFA even offers free museum entry on Sundays for the duration of the exhibition.
The Life of Lewis
Raised in New York City, the world Lewis experienced clearly influenced the art of his formative years. Later known for his abstractions, his early work leaned more literal and figurative. Even during this period of his life and his paintings, a hint exists of the beginnings of a social commentary aspect of his perspective that would continue to influence and infiltrate his work.
Later Lewis’ work pivoted, becoming more abstract as he began to incorporate elements of jazz into his work both in concept and in style. The improvisational spirit and freehanded nature he found in and empathized with in jazz extended to the new direction of his work. Also, disillusioned with the American Dream, Lewis became more aware the ways his skin color precluded him reaching the same levels of sales or success of his peers.
Throughout his life, his limited participation in the gallery and art world was due in part to his social and political leanings as well as being a black man in that era. Even in success he found himself marginalized in the same manner as some of his subjects. Thirty-six years after his his death, that is changing.
For more on the exhibit, see below.
With mentions of the exhibition by the New York Times and The Guardian, PAFA’s upcoming exhibit gives credit where credit is due. Not only including his paintings, the retrospective in the Fisher Brooks Gallery of the Hamilton Building will contain handmade dolls as well as additional archival material on display to the public for the first time.
Arranged chronologically and organized into six specific themes, each motif represents a period of time linked to a subject matter of importance in Lewis’ life and work.
Procession (defined as people moving along in an orderly fashion or just moving forward), puts forth an idea exemplified throughout Lewis’ creations, both on micro and macro levels. In that vein, the exhibit displays Lewis’ work throughout his career as an artist, a natural progression of movement capturing his fascination of the concept, much in the way a procession ritual can refer to a funeral or a parade, a carnival or a Klu Klux Klan march.
These concepts, and events, feature prominently in the concepts Lewis put into his pieces.
Programming and Events
Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis will be on view in the Hamilton Building through April 3, 2016, and is set to include a number of public events and programs.
Chiefly, PAFA offers free museum admission every Sunday for the duration of the exhibit.
Opening week, Friday, November 13, a preview party gives visitors the chance for a first look at this major show, while sipping cocktails.
For a complete look at the upcoming events hosted in conjunction with the exhibit, check here.
The depth and beauty of work assembled for this exhibition makes it an important and significant event. Following its debut in Philadelphia, the exhibit makes stops in Fort Worth, Texas and Chicago. Take it in while it’s here.