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Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis

Ruth Fine, curator (1972-2012), National Gallery of Art, and curator and catalog editor, Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis is the first comprehensive museum overview of the work of this influential artist. Norman Lewis (1909-1979) became committed to issues of abstraction at the start of his career and continued to explore them over its entire trajectory. His art derived inspiration from music (jazz and classical) and nature (seasonal changes, plant forms, and the sea). Also central to his work were the dramatic confrontations of the civil rights movement, in which he was an active participant alongside fellow members of the New York art scene. Bridging the Harlem Renaissance, abstract expressionism, and other movements, Lewis is a crucial figure in American art whose reinsertion into the discourse further opens the field for recognition of the contributions of artists of color. Procession was organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, and brings together works from major public and private collections. In this lecture, recorded on February 14, 2016, at the National Gallery of Art, exhibition curator Ruth Fine presents an overview of the approximately 130 paintings, unique works on paper, objects, and prints dating from the early 1930s through the late 1970s featured in both the Procession exhibition and its companion show Stone and Metal: Lithographs and Etchings by Norman Lewis. Bringing much-needed attention to Lewis’s output and significance in the history of American art, the multiauthor exhibition catalog—edited by Fine, who wrote the key overview essay—is a milestone in Lewis scholarship and a vital resource for future study of the artist and abstraction in his period.