Living in a major city like Chicago I try to take advantage of every opportunity presented to see an exhibition of art that I find interesting. When I saw an advertisement of a free exhibition of the work of artist Norman Lewis at the Chicago Cultural Center, I knew I wanted to see it for two reasons: the artwork itself, and the fact I had never been inside the Cultural Center, a 1897 building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Norman Lewis was a pivotal figure in American Art, and he was one of the innovators of the post-World War II art movement known as Abstract Expressionism. Unfortunately because he was African-American, racism prevented this talented artist from attaining the notoriety he so obviously deserved.

In his early work during the 1930s and 1940s, Lewis' work focused on what he saw in the area of Harlem where he grew up and lived.

The Wanderer (Johnny) 1933



The Dispossessed (Family) 1934

Meeting Place (aka Shopping) 1941

Hep Cats (1943): Lewis himself was a dapper dresser.

Composition I (1945): This painting was Lewis' first foray into the abstract style of painting. Although these rectangular shapes could depict an urban city such as New York City, this painting showed the painter's departure from his usual subjects of life and people living in Harlem.  He was criticized for this change in painting style.

Jazz Club (1945)
Fives Phases (1949)

Roller Coaster (1946)

Spring (1947)

Untitled (1949) 
Migrating Birds (1953)
Redneck Birth (1961)

Ritual (1962)
Journey (1965)

March on Washington (1965)

Exodus (1972)

Aurora Borealis (1972-1976)

Untitled (1978)

This exhibition was a real treat. I love discovering new artists and learning the struggles they incurred to have their art appreciated. I love the brilliant color Norman Lewis used in his paintings. Although his later, abstract paintings are spectacular, I like his earlier works, showing the people he encountered and their lives in 1930s and 1940s Harlem more.

This exhibition is on display at the Chicago Cultural Center until January 8, 2017. Admission is FREE. For more information click here.

Thank you for visiting.

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All photos were taken by me at this exhibition in October, 2016. Unauthorized use is prohibited.


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