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DMA Acquires Monumental ‘Map’ Painting By Frank Bowling

by Jerome Weeks 20 Nov 2014 9:59 AM

It’s from his series of lush, abstract paintings based on world maps – and it’ll be reunited with the others for the first time since 1971.


Frank Bowling Marcia H Travels 1970 acrylic on canvas 305 x 570 cm courtesy of Frank Bowling and Hales Gal (2)Frank Bowling, Marcia H Travels, acrylic on canvas, 2007. Image: Frank Bowling and Hales Gal

The DMA’s announcement is about both the acquisition and the exhibition that’ll showcase it, Frank Bowling: Map Paintings, opening at the DMA in February 2015.

Although the Guyana-born Bowling grew up in England and graduated from the Royal College of Art (in the same 1962 class as David Hockney), he didn’t really find success until he moved to New York in 1966. His development from a figurative painter to a more abstract artist influenced by Mark Rothko, Larry Poons and the ideas of critic Clement Greenburg is almost exactly the opposite of many of his British, post-war peers. In 2005, he became the first black member of the Royal Academy of Art.

Bowling created the ‘Map’ series in 1971 for a show at the Whitney Museum of Art – using world maps as the basis for lush accretions of dripped and swirled colors. The paintings are huge. Marcia H Travels, for instance, the painting the DMA has acquired, is 12 feet by 18 and a half. The DMA exhibition will be the first time the series of paintings has been ‘re-united’ since the Whitney show.  One of the other ‘Map paintings — an 11-foot wide acrylic called Polish Rebecca — had been rolled up and forgotten in a friend’s attic for 40 years. Last year, it was sold at the New York Armory Show for $275,000.

Full release:

Dallas Museum of Art Acquires Its First Painting by Seminal Artist Frank Bowling

The Work Will Be on View in Frank Bowling: Map Paintings Opening at the DMA in February 2015

Dallas, TX—November 20, 2014—The Dallas Museum of Art today announced the acquisition of Marcia H Travels (1970), the first work in the DMA’s collection by the Guyanese-born British painter Frank Bowling. Bowling, widely celebrated for his contributions to the field of abstraction and his advocacy of black artists internationally, created a number of paintings in the 1970s characterized by his use of world maps as organizational tools to explore color as its own subject—a recurring theme in his work. Marcia H Travels is part of this influential “Map Paintings” series and will be featured in the DMA-organized exhibition exploring this pivotal moment in Bowling’s engagements with abstraction.

Featuring four monumental works, the remaining three from private collections, Frank Bowling: Map Paintings, opening February 19, 2015, will mark the first time in nearly 45 years that these “Map Paintings” will be brought together since their debut at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971. The acquisition of Marcia H Travels is among the first initiatives by the DMA’s new Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Gavin Delahunty. The exhibition, on view through August 2, 2015, highlights Delahunty’s particular focus on celebrating overlooked artists and underrepresented identities.

“As the Dallas Museum of Art continues to expand its robust program of contemporary art and exhibitions, we are particularly attuned to incorporating the voices of living artists and representing the diversity of achievements and perspectives in today’s artistic practice,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “We are proud to have in our collection a work of this caliber by Frank Bowling. The addition of this painting provides a richer understanding of contemporary art across cultures, geography, and time.”

“Frank Bowling has challenged traditions his entire career, establishing his own path in the art world. In his ‘Map Paintings,’ Bowling pushed the boundaries of formal painting practices, and approached abstraction with a remarkable freedom,” said Delahunty. “Lush and beautiful with its contrasting zones of color and color-tone, Marcia H Travels alludes to the social and political influences on abstract art of the 60s and 70s. I am particularly delighted that our viewers familiar with Bowling’s work will have the opportunity to once more see these important works side-by-side, and that a new generation will be able to acquaint themselves with a piece of art history opening up exciting new possibilities for the Museum.”

Frank Bowling: Map Paintings will explore the development of the series and Bowling’s influences as he forged his artistic path. Created while he was living and working in New York, the “Map Paintings” demonstrate Bowling’s commitment to abstraction in a period characterized by vast experimentation.

Marcia H Travels, named for Bowling’s friend and fellow artist Marcia Hafif, embodies his map technique, in which Bowling uses a projector to trace outlines of countries and continents. These outlines create boundaries and anchors for Bowling’s formal and experimental engagements with color. Marcia H Travels reveals stencils of South America on the far left, Africa in the center of the painting, and Guyana in the top right-hand corner. Their simultaneous disclosure and concealment of a ghostly “map” shrouded in color secure an intensity of focus from the viewer, one hovering at the limits of perception and emotion.

About Frank Bowling
Frank Bowling OBE RA (b. Guyana, 1936) moved from Guyana to London in 1950. Bowling won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in 1959 (at the RCA he was mentored by Francis Bacon and educated alongside David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj) and graduated in 1962 with both a Silver Medal in Painting and a travel scholarship that took him to South America and the Caribbean. He was a contributing editor at Arts Magazine from 1969 to 1972, during which time he became active in the civil rights struggle for black artists to gain greater visibility in American museums and galleries. He has held teaching positions at many institutions, including lectureships at the University of Reading, Massachusetts College of Art, Rutgers, and Columbia University. In 2005 Bowling became the first black British artist to be elected to the Royal Academy, and he was appointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 2008.

Selected solo shows include Tate Britain (2012), Royal Academy of Arts (2011), the UK touring retrospective Frank Bowling: Bending to the Grid (2003), Serpentine Gallery (1986), and Whitney Museum of American Art (1971). His work can be found in numerous public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Royal Academy of Arts, Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art. Marcia H Travels was exhibited at the 2003 Venice Biennale as part of Fault Lines: Contemporary African Art and Shifting Landscapes, curated by Gilane Tawadros.


  • DMA is fortunate enough to acquire Frank Bowling’s Work. For sure many have visited the exhibition.

  • DMA is fortunate enough to acquire Frank Bowling’s Work. For sure many have visited the exhibition.

  • DMA is fortunate enough to acquire Frank Bowling’s Work. For sure many have visited the exhibition.

  • DMA is fortunate enough to acquire Frank Bowling’s Work. For sure many have visited the exhibition.