“Pure Eye Music”: Norman Lewis, Abstract Expressionism, and Bebop
Whereas Piper's art looked back to the classic women's blues of the 1920s, her contemporary Norman Lewis listened to the new sounds of bebop. This chapter shows that this music inspired a crucial phase in his development of an African American abstract expressionism which is still largely unrecognized by art historians. This description, from a review of a 1951 exhibition of the paintings of the African American abstract expressionist artist Norman Lewis, draws attention to the lyrical qualities of his work and invites the viewer to compare his approach as a visual artist to that of a musical performer. The impulse to think of Lewis in this context presents a valuable opportunity to open up readings of his paintings and explore his uses of music. It also offers a chance to reassess his contribution to American abstract expressionism and the issues that have defined his position within it.
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