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Untitled
40" x 26.5"
Oil on paper
1961

Norman Lewis is considered the first major African American Abstract Expressionist. Lewis grew up in Harlem and was actively involved in the Black Arts Movement in New York during the mid-20th century; he was a member of the 306 Group as well as the Spiral Collective with fellow African American artists and writers. His early works of the 1930s and 40s were predominately focused on presenting the lives of the black families and workers surrounding him. While Lewis turned his attention to Abstraction after World War II, his subjects and titles continued to allude to the world surrounding him. Jazz music had a profound impact on his work, and he often sought to transfer the genre’s improvisational fluidity and energy onto the canvas with broad brushstrokes and abstracted imagery. In Untitled, Lewis uses sparse, dry brushstrokes to create a skyscape. Darker shades of blue slowly blend into the lighter center of yellows and oranges that illuminate gold bands. While the most centered bands remain unified, the outer bands that are farthest from the bright light are slowly being lost within the darkness.