Five Works from the Collection of Albert Murray: ROMARE BEARDEN and NORMAN LEWIS

DC MOORE GALLERY | JANUARY 6 – FEBRUARY 4, 2012

Norman Lewis, "Carnival," c. 1957. Oil on linen. 48 1/2" × 58 3/4". Courtesy of DC Moore Gallery, NY.

Five Works from the Collection of Albert Murray only leaves one wishing that a larger exhibition of Murray’s collection be mounted. Three pieces by Romare Bearden are separated enough in time as to give a sense—if only that—of the artist’s aesthetic evolution. The two works by Norman Lewis, a painting and a pastel (both from 1957), could have been made in the same month. His oil painting, “Carnival,” has a visual rhythm that looks the way jazz sounds. Skids of blue and mauve jag out from under the white overpainting while shapes in black, orange, and yellow skirt and slide on a vertical axis. Bearden’s earliest work, “With Blue” (1962), is all surface and completely without the kind of representational imagery that shows up in the collage work for which he’s mostly known. In it, a hard-edged, speckled white shape floats like a one-dimensional iceberg on an azure expanse. In total contrast, the oil monotype, “Duke Ellington on Stage” (1972), exudes a lively spontaneity within the tight figural arrangement of musicians. A small but exemplary Bearden collage, “Fishing and Crabbing, Three Mile Creek” (1965), is also on view. Murray, Bearden, and Lewis were all pals; Murray was the writer among the three, and his presence in the exhibition is felt like a rest between two beats.

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Charles Schultz

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