Norman Wilfred Lewis
Oil on canvas
61 x 36 inches
Signed and dated lower left
Lewis was born in Harlem to working-class immigrants from Bermuda and came of age during the Harlem Renaissance. During his early career, Lewis worked primarily in social realism, addressing the racial struggles he felt and observed. In the 1940s, he departed from the realist style of painting; Lewis wanted to achieve something more with his art, and he would do so with his affiliation with the Abstract Expressionists. During the 1960s Lewis became more involved in social causes through his leadership in the black community and in his own art. With Alston, Romare Bearden, and Hale Woodruff, Lewis was a founding member of the Spiral Group, which used the visual arts to bring awareness to the civil rights movement.
Lewis’s works from the 1960s and 1970s are more loose and organic than his initial forays into abstraction. This large, vertically oriented work is painted in an all-over compositional style typical of Abstract Expressionism. The vivid contrasts of fiery red and orange against black evoke flickering flames ascending the canvas. Specks of blue draw the eye to the dense concentration of brushstrokes in the lower half of the painting. Despite decades of artistic achievement and favorable reviews, it is only in recent years that Lewis has begun to receive the attention and recognition achieved by his Abstract Expressionist peers.