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Multitudes

Abstract painting with light character etchings on a multicolored background of red, black, and white painted in loose patches that blend together.
© Estate of Norman Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

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  • Abstract painting with light character etchings on a multicolored background of red, black, and white painted in loose patches that blend together.

Date:

1946

Artist:

Norman Lewis
American, 1909–1979

About this artwork

Among avant-garde painters in New York in the 1940s, Norman Lewis took a unique stance toward the possibility of addressing social concerns through abstraction. The only black artist active in the New York School, he pushed the limits of non-representational art by incorporating forms evocative of the energy of American cities.

In Multitudes, Lewis brought together aspects of Abstract Expressionism’s two dominant languages—gestural mark making and Color Field painting—by layering tight and rapid calligraphy atop a soft ground of pulsating color. Although the work avoids overt representation, the title alludes to the United States’ struggles and potential after World War II. With reference to lines from Walt Whitman’s 1892 poem “Song of Myself,” Lewis commented on his own time and the productive complications his socially engaged abstraction brought to American painting at this moment: “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.).”

On View

Arts of the Americas, Gallery 398

Artist

Norman Lewis

Title

Multitudes

Origin

New York City

Date

1946

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed and dated, lower right: Norman Lewis / 10-6-1946; inscribed and dated on verso: Multitudes / 40 x 24 / 1946- / No. 1857

Dimensions

99.7 × 67.3 cm (39 1/4 × 26 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment Fund; Director's Discretionary Acquisition Fund; Eloise W. Martin Legacy Endowment Fund

Reference Number

2020.194

Copyright

© Estate of Norman Lewis; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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