Frank Bowling b. 1936, Bartica, Guyana
Frank arrived in Britain from British Guiana (now Guyana) in the 1950s and struck up a friendship with Francis Bacon whilst studying at the Royal College of Art—along with David Hockney and Ron Kitaj. He moved to New York City in 1966, living in the infamous Chelsea Hotel, and working in a roomy loft on Broadway in Soho. This was when the New York art world was at its zenith and a young Bowling was keen to engage with every aspect of it.
Frank wrote for and co-edited Arts magazine, hung out with many artists including Larry Rivers and Jules Olitski, took advice from the critic Clement Greenberg and even dated Rita Reinhart (Ad Reinhart’s widow). He was living in a way his artist friends back in London could only dream of.
Much of Bowling’s early work in New York culminated in a solo show of giant map paintings at the Whitney Museum in 1971. This was highly unusual at the time as Frank wasn’t an American citizen and nor was it commonplace to see the work of young black artists in museums. He worked with the Tibor de Nagy gallery and his work was garnering attention. Bowling returned to London in 1975 to look after his young children, but always kept a studio in New York. Somehow, his work slipped between the cracks of this dual city life and after such a promising beginning, he struggled for the next few decades.
I was introduced to Frank by the young sculptor Thomas J. Price and we immediately hit it off. His abstract paintings are full of ambition and energy and at the age of 80, his career has re-ignited. His monumental paintings are entering public collections around the world, and will be featured in a number of important international museum shows in 2017.