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Blacklash

Abstract painting on a white background featuring a black shape with red shadings, thick bands in red, winding drips in black and red, and a splattering of red paint drops.

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  • Abstract painting on a white background featuring a black shape with red shadings, thick bands in red, winding drips in black and red, and a splattering of red paint drops.

Date:

1964

Artist:

Ed Clark
American, 1926-2019

About this artwork

An alumnus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ed Clark is best known for his shaped canvases and pioneering approach to painting, in which he exchanged the paintbrush for a broom and, later, rags, rollers, and even his own hands. According to Clark, “The truth is in the physical brushstroke, and the subject of the painting is the paint itself.” Blacklash is the artist’s most direct response to racial conflict in the United States. While living in New York, he created the work in the aftermath of the 1964 protests in Harlem, incited by the murder of 15-year-old James Powell by an off-duty police officer. The title, which combines the words black and backlash, evokes the violence against black people that summer, which is further emphasized by Clark’s broad strokes and splattered paint, as well as the bright red and orange colors. The title also reflects the artist’s own double erasure: he was considered an outsider both by the art establishment, which assumed abstract painting was solely the realm of white painters, and by fellow black artists who strongly advocated for figuration over abstraction in painting.

Status

Currently Off View

Department

Contemporary Art

Artist

Ed Clark

Title

Blacklash

Date

1964

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

92.1 × 122.2 cm (36.1/4 × 48.1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Kenneth C. Griffin

Reference Number

2020.1

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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