PRINT March 1992


NORMAN LEWIS AND JACKSON POLLOCK. The latter one of the best-known painters of this century; the former hardly known at all, at least in “mainstream” art history. Both artists had early on made “propaganda” art, as art with a social point of view was then described, and later, at around the same time in the mid ’40s, both made a leap into nonobjective abstraction. Yet Pollock became famous and Lewis didn’t.

Was Lewis just less good? After all, though the mesh of art-history-making that over the years has sieved out fewer than a dozen “Abstract Expressionists” for serious consideration until quite recently excluded nearly everyone who wasn’t white, male, and apparently heterosexual,1 it also screened out quite a number of SWM’s. Or were some of the criteria for what counted as good abstraction—and for who could do it—stacked against African-Americans?

LEWIS AND POLLOCK arrived at Abstract Expressionism by related yet differing routes. For Lewis’ journey grew out of concerns to which he might have been specifically sensitive as an African-American: like Romare Bearden, Hale Woodruff, and others, including white artists such as Seymour Lipton, he had begun to question the ability of social-protest art, whether journalistic or allegorical, to produce social change. As he put it in 1946, “I have been concerned with . . . the limitations which come under the names, ‘African Idiom,’ ‘Negro Idiom,’ or ‘Social Painting.’” He had grown, he added, “from an over-emphasis on tradition and then propaganda to develop a whole new concept from myself as a painter.”2 By this “new concept” Lewis meant his progress from paintings like Washerwoman and Yellow Hat, both 1936, with their geometricized realism, through the flattened and dematerialized figures in paintings like Dispossessed, 1940, and Untitled (street people), 1944 (though these are still socially focused), to the greater abstraction and stylization of Untitled, 4/1945, and Untitled (woman in green and yellow), 1945.

Like many other Abstract Expressionists, Pollock had painted regional realist scenes in the ’30s. Some, such as Cotton Pickers, ca. 1935, referred like Lewis’ work to the poor position of African-American labor. But by the later ’30s Pollock had moved from a historically locatable politics toward a more personal, sexual, and mythical symbolism in works such as Untitled (Naked Man with Knife), ca. 1938–41. By 1942 he had painted the flatter and more radically abstracted Stenographic Figure and Male and Female, and by 1943 he had completed an allover abstraction, a wall-sized commission for Peggy Guggenheim’s front hall. He began to use allover compositions consistently in 1945, in paintings like Night Mist and Portrait of H.M.

The year Pollock painted Stenographic Figure and Male and Female, Lewis remained committed to social themes, though the heaving topographies of his works admitted both naturalistic and abstract elements. And when Pollock was working on Peggy Guggenheim’s foyer, Lewis was teaching at the George Washington Carver School in Harlem and was still painting recognizable figures (Harlem Jazz Jamboree). But changes followed rapidly in the next two years. Although he still used recognizable (if abstracted) images from the Harlem scene in paintings like Untitled, 10/24/1944, his work veered on the whole toward a biomorphic abstraction heavily misted with color that, Kandinsky-like, often refused to stay within linear bounds (Figures, 1944). And somewhere in 1945, Lewis got to Abstract Expressionism, in works such as the series of small paintings on Masonite he began that year. At the time, however, the phrase “getting to Abstract Expressionism” lacked the aura of arrival it emanates now; there was no such location then on the map of art history.3 And Lewis was without the kind of support that Pollock got from Clement Greenberg and James Johnson Sweeney, whose influential evaluations valorized characteristics of his art that might otherwise have been attacked or ignored.

By 1946, Lewis, like Pollock, had entered a new arena. Though he probably never made a painting that did not touch in some way on his experience as an African-American (most of the forms in even his most strictly nonobjective works can be traced back to Harlem’s iron gates, night skies and lights, or people), in the late ’40s both the white and the black communities saw his work as abstract. “The excellence of [the Negro artist’s] work will be the most effective blow against stereotype and the most irrefutable proof of the artificiality of stereotype in general,” Lewis wrote in 1946.4 His untitled paintings from that year feature an allover flatness and a vitality similar to contemporaneous Pollock works such as The Teacup and Croaking Movement, though Lewis’ canvases are much smaller (as small as six inches wide), and like the art of Mark Tobey, Theodoros Stamos, William Baziotes, and Arshile Gorky, they have a delicacy at odds with the aggressive quality that Greenberg so cherished in Pollock.5

WHAT WAS THE motivation behind the drive toward abstraction? One should first say that despite the apparent nonobjectivity of their art, neither Pollock nor Lewis seems fully to have escaped the coils of representation. Rather, they recast their continuing concerns in less easily detectable form, as suggested in a famous remark attributed to Pollock: “I choose to veil the imagery.”6 But the switch from realistic to abstract forms that acted out metaphorically what they represented, rather than imitating it mimetically, did enable the successful white artists of the ’40s and ’50s to make a new argument for their work: the claim of a generalized humanistic freedom. Their forms, supposedly, were abstracted enough to have shed their cultural specificity. Some artists, and Pollock was one, incorporated a Jungian idea of the collective unconscious into their painting, aiming to transcend the questions realism inevitably posed of whose freedom, whose vantage point, allowed this picturing of universality. In pigment stretched taut or flaccidly puddled, viewers saw emotion metaphorized or indexed, not people whose faces might be white or brown.

Still, Abstract Expressionism did retain a subject of a kind, one extensively addressed in the “normal” art history of the last half century. In 1978, for example, in the catalogue introduction for the exhibition “American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist,” cocurator E. A. Carmean, Jr., noted that works by the artists now designated “Abstract Expressionists” don’t actually coincide in iconography, style, or theme; the only connecting factor is that these painters and sculptors all rejected certain kinds of mimetic representations, yet all had “subjects.” Quoting from the curriculum of the “new art school” begun in 1948 by Baziotes, David Hare, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, Carmean set out to explore “what subjects are” in Abstract Expressionism, and how they are arrived at.“7 And he argued that since the artists in the show—Willem de Kooning, Gorky, Motherwell, Newman, Pollock, Rothko, and David Smith—so often recognized their subject in the work rather than planning it in advance, their subject, then, was not the description of an object or event but rather ”the articulation of it" (as with Pollock, whose subject in his poured paintings Carmean saw as the ordering of chaos).8

Accordingly, the focus of Carmean’s discussion of de Kooning’s Woman I, 1950–52, for instance, is “the ways in which her characteristics are linked with the pictorial style,” rather than the work’s relation to this particular theme’s political history, or to the social or professional position of the artist himself when he painted it.9 In this Carmean was only following the lead of the artists themselves. He cited Greenberg: “If there was anything Pollock was set against in his poured pictures it was iconography. They have a subject—Jackson was sure of that—but it wasn’t there because of iconography.”10 “Central to abstract expressionism,” Carmean concluded, “is, that the subject of each work is a result of the work, which is the use of materials.”11

Discussions of Abstract Expressionist subject matter, however, are linked in a crucial but underexamined way to another kind of subject: a subject tied to the question of whose freedom, whose universalizing, is in effect in this art, a subject instrumental in establishing the different economic and professional levels at which Lewis and Pollock pursued their careers. In art history the word “subject” has usually been applied to what is often also called “subject matter,” that is, say, to Pollock’s control of chaos, if you will. But in the terminology of certain literary and political theory (the work of Louis Althusser, for instance), a terminology that made its way into art discourse late but has increasing currency there, Pollock’s signifying skeins of paint would be the “object” of his painting, and he, the person who made them, would be the “subject.” Like the subject of a sentence, the subject in Althusser is the one who acts, or in this case the one who made the art.12

By the ’70s, studies of canonical Abstract Expressionism often took the work’s subject matter as the act of making the painting. The emphasis on the work’s making as the work’s meaning fitted well with existentialist definitions of freedom in the ’40s and ’50s, and with its sign, spontaneity; it also suggested that when you bought the work, you bought the man. Althusser’s use of the word “subject” and its use by the Abstract Expressionists to mean precisely the opposite thing are only apparently in conflict in Abstract Expressionism, given the conflation there of the artist and what the artist does.

Lewis’ absence as a subject, in Althusser’s sense, from the roster of the Abstract Expressionists is both revealing and disturbing because of the morphological and conceptual similarities of his work to Abstract Expressionism, and also because of his close association with the artists of the school. He participated in their major forums—appearing at the Club, drinking at the Cedar Bar, showing at one of the important avant-garde galleries of the period (the Marian Willard gallery), and attending the historic artists’ sessions at Studio 35 in 1950. Given Lewis’ age (born in 1909, three years before Pollock), his New York upbringing, his determination to enter the avant-garde, his success in placing himself within it, and the formal and intentional similarities of his work to Abstract Expressionism, his comparative obscurity until recently suggests that the factors that prevented his canonization were strong indeed.

BY 1949, when Lewis started to receive reviews in large-circulation publications, his work had become more atmospheric than it was a few years earlier. Critics described his Five Phases, 1949, as “pure eye music,” and called attention to his “lyric touch”: “He starts softly on the blank page like a musician improvising, and as he sees a suitable motif taking shape, swings into it with confidence, plays it up for what it is worth, and then, satisfied he has gone the whole way with it, permits it to fade softly out.”13 Less approvingly they noted his “conscious stylization,” and his use of modes identified with other painters.14

Lewis did indeed have a taste for addressing in his own hand the innovations of other artists. Interwoven with his more obviously distinctive traits are a series of overt pastiches and quotations of various painters’ work: Boats, 1943—Lyonel Feininger; Fantasy, 1946—Wassily Kandinsky; Metropolitan Crowd, 1946—Tobey. But it seems strange that the critics should praise Lewis for improvising like a black jazz musician, then attack him for basing his improvisations on recognizable works by other artists—a standard operating procedure in jazz. The problem may have been that when Lewis played on art—taking culture rather than “nature,” or the spontaneous urgings of the unconscious, as his primary resource—he put the “authenticity” of his work in question. It became impossible to attribute to him the intuitive procedures and the intimations of primary process claimed for Pollock.

Lewis’ experimental plays on various masters were in fact remarkable for the local and topical references he inserted in them, like the Harlem ironwork he included in his Matissean The Gate, 1945. At several points in his career he did achieve periods of stylistic individuality as unique and identifiable as Pollock’s various phases; if anything, Lewis had more of these moments than Pollock did—the richly patterned realism of the early ’40s (Irene and Meeting Place, 1940 and 1941); the more stylized and linear musicians and people of the mid ’40s; the “stitched” paintings and drawings of the late ’40s and early ’50s; the small improvisations on board from 1945 through 1947, gemlike and dynamic at the same time (a dark untitled work and Four in Spades, both 1947); and the long series of atmospheric mists punctuated with tenement windows or “little people” (the turquoise-and-pink Untitled, ca. 1949; Ritual, 1950). Yet this stylistic multiplicity may have been read at the time as the sign of an artist who could not decide what he stood for. One can speculate that with more critical and financial success, Lewis might have settled into the development and elaboration of any one of these modes for a longer period. His development would then more closely have paralleled that of Pollock, Rothko, Newman, and the others, whose styles became more consistent with the arrival of critical acclaim.

As Ellen Landau points out, Pollock was ideally suited to become the postwar idol of the American avant-garde.15 Abstract Expressionism may have been written about and marketed extremely carefully and skillfully, but it was understood from the beginning as an art produced without calculation, an art not measured onto canvases or spooned into conversations with critics and curators. It was convincingly manifested in the driven psyche of Pollock, who, alienated from the conformity of American society, found his salvation in representing his unconscious.16 His public persona was that of a violent, savage romantic who painted explosive, incomprehensible, but profoundly original pictures; his western origins were often invoked to explain his Herculean bravado, and to claim an American rhythm for his raw approach.

GIVEN THE ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISTS’ interest in “primitiveness,” it follows that their generation should have admired and been influenced by the art of Africans, Native Americans, and others—art such as the African Baule, Bamana, and Dogon figures owned by Adolph Gottlieb, or the Navaho sand paintings to be seen in the well-illustrated pages of the annual Bureau of American Ethnology Report and then at the Museum of Modern Art’s “Indian Art of the United States” exhibition in 1941.17 Presumably the makers of such works were in closer touch with their unconscious than most New Yorkers, though this didn’t mean, of course, that their art was superior to modern European-American art.18 As John Graham (who discovered Pollock) wrote in 1937, it represented a sort of way station, a halfway point where one could view unbridled vitality and plastic sensibility unsaddled as yet with civilized genius. “Picasso’s painting has the same ease of access to the unconscious as have primitive artists,” wrote Graham in 1937, “plus a conscious intelligence.”19

Sentences like this surely put Lewis, as a black American of Caribbean parentage, at a double disadvantage. The Abstract Expressionist criteria of stylistic authenticity and of “primitivism” were yoked to his personal identity in the most damaging way—particularly since he was a quick-witted and ascerbic man, apt, unlike Pollock, to react to adverse criticism not with physical force but with a barbed retort. This was a man who consciously refused to be “savage”—to play either the naive “primitive” or the neoprimitive role in creating images of his “race.”

In the ’20s and ’30s, the years of the Harlem Renaissance, white New Yorkers had frequented uptown bars, night spots, and also the salons and studios where black writers, artists, politicians, and musicians met. Critics like the philosopher Alain Locke and artists such as Meta Warrick Fuller, Aaron Douglas, Sargent Claude Johnson, and James Lessesne Wells had emphasized the connections between African and African-American culture: and both were of increasing interest to whites. As late as 1935, the Museum of Modern Art mounted an exhibition of “African Negro Sculpture” (which Lewis visited so often to make drawings that the guards came to know him by sight). But in the ’40s whites no longer went freely to Harlem. World War II ended that earlier period of exchange, for it made obvious a troubling dual standard: the practice of segregation at home gibed awkwardly with the attack on fascism abroad. This reality was too uncomfortable for most white Americans of the period to face directly, and the consequence was that African and African-American culture were swept under the rug. At the same time, the war heightened black resentment, for it seemed self-defeating to fight for a democracy that segregated schools, buses, baseball, the armed forces, and even transfusions of blood.20

In Lewis’ Conflict, 1942, a black and a white man, workers or more probably soldiers, seem at first to wrestle; but their sightless eyes, limp hands, and strangely still limbs suggest that they are actually locked together in death, and that, moreover, they may have been fighting not each other but an unseen enemy. The soldiers’ embrace, one might observe, suggests a blurring of the standard system of heterosexuality (as the two figures in Pollock’s Male and Female—which is male, which is female?—suggest a blurring of the standard lines of gender). But Conflict presents an additional ambiguity: it points to the problems of an oppressed people in a country at war. On the one hand, it was necessary for African-Americans to fight the racism of the American system. On the other, they saw good reason to oppose the racism of the Nazis. Conflict poses the question: are these soldiers brothers in a common cause, or are they opponents?

Though African art still had the virtues of the “primitive” in this new context, in the minds of many white Americans it was no longer quite as “universal” as before. Moreover, the primitivism of choice for the Abstract Expressionist generation was not those modes already annexed by French Modernism—the modes of Oceania and particularly of Africa—but the indigenous art of the Americas. The “primitives” with whom Pollock was repeatedly identified were Native Americans. The “Indian Art of the United States” show had boosted a public interest in Native American art that had already been strengthened by the New Deal’s search for innately American standards, and by isolationist resistance to involvement in the European war.21 Native American art also acted as a remedy for white America’s perception of the country’s lack of cultural roots. But Native American artists themselves were no threat to professional art production: “Fine art in the sense of art for art’s sake is a concept that is almost unknown in Indian cultures,” wrote Frederick Douglass and René D’Harnoncourt in the “Indian Art of the United States” catalogue.22 Indian art was wonderful, yes; but wonderful as craft or traditional artisanship. And it was a group enterprise, repetitive, disciplined—the opposite of the free individual spontaneity emphasized in discussion of Pollock.

In the mid ’40s, a movement called “Indian Space” prospered among the students at the Art Students League in New York, encouraged by the example of such enthusiasts of Native American art as Steve Wheeler, Robert Barrell, Will Barnet, and Peter Busa.23 There was no corresponding “African Space” movement as such, but the closest thing to it emerged in teaching institutions run by African-Americans: the Boykin School of Art in Greenwich Village, where Joseph and Beauford Delaney, Bill Chase, and Robert Savon Pious studied; the 306 Group, housed in the Harlem studios of painter Charles Alston; and the Savage Studio School, also in Harlem, run by the remarkable sculptor Augusta Savage. It was at the Savage school that Lewis began his studies in 1933, in exchange for cleaning up. Here he met dozens of artists, among them Morgan and Marvin Smith, Gwendolyn Knight, and William Artis; he was also soon active in the group at 306, including Bearden, Robert Blackburn, Countee Cullen, Ralph Ellison, Ronald Joseph, Knight again, Jacob Lawrence, Elba Lightfoot, Charles McKay, Georgette Powell Seabrooke, Orson Welles, Charles White, and Richard Wright.

“Indian Space,” when sufficiently transformed into Abstract Expressionism (for example in Pollock), entered the pipelines of criticism, collecting, and institutional display. But the “African Space” seen in the work of Beauford Delaney, Woodruff, and Alston, as well as in photographs like Roy DeCarava’s, did not. Both “Indian Space” and “African Space” paintings intentionally referred to an “other” culture. But the “Indian Space” works were made by white artists, while the “multidominant” patterns of “African space,” inspired by African idioms and forms as they were transformed in the diaspora, had the political motivation of reaffirming an interrupted identity.

“African Space” art often exhibits a clashing pastiche of patterns and forms drawn from disparate sources, as in Lewis’ Madonna, 1939–24." In New York at mid century it ran a gamut from the atmospheric darks of DeCarava and Lewis to the bold solidity of Alston and Delaney, a similar range to the Abstract Expressionist spectrum running from Rothko’s ethereal washes to Richard Pousette-Dart’s impasto reliefs. Beyond its formal characteristics, however, which are more pronounced in the work of some of these artists than of others, is the insistence of African-American artists like Lewis on their right to orchestrate a cultural and stylistic multivalence, refusing to align themselves completely with any stylistic idiom.

THE LENS that brought Pollock and his work into focus, in the same heroic field of vision that established the U.S. as an international cultural force, clearly lacked the depth of field to clarify the outlines of Lewis’ identity and work. His broad and inconsistent stylistic range and his African-American identity were alien to the image of Abstract Expressionism. Not only was his work too small, too elegant, and not “original” enough, but its most notable influences—Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, Juan Gris, and African art, to name a few—were sources from which American abstraction was trying to demonstrate its independence. These issues were probably enough to exclude Lewis from the canon of Abstract Expressionism. But there was something else: no matter what Lewis did or did not do, his work would always have one distinct difference from Abstract Expressionism: a black subject.

Was Lewis ejected from the canonical group of Abstract Expressionists because he was black? Well, yes and no. The white artists in the school were conflicted about the politics that his very presence evoked. On the one hand, most white critics, curators, and even fellow artists did at some level, either positively or negatively, connect his absence to his identity as an African-American. At the Club, for instance, a late ’40s gathering place for the New York School, “they liked Norman; they were glad he was there,” remembered his partner in those years, Joan Murray. “But it was a strange attitude: what was he doing there? He should be painting lynchings.”25

On the other hand, most of these artists were apparently uncomfortable when Lewis argued his position in the group; in other words, when he assumed the position of a subject. At one of the “Artists Sessions at Studio 35,” the artists’-get-togethers-cum-panel-discussions held in 1950, Lewis addressed the question of the artist’s responsibility for how people saw his work.26 He mentioned the open-air shows that used to be held in the Village, and the public patronage of the defunct Federal Art Project; institutions like these, he said, promoted greater intimacy between people and artists. He compared the problem of getting across the meaning of his paintings to the work he had done organizing unions on the waterfront: in both cases, he said, you had to make people aware of what you were doing if you wanted cooperation. Then Lewis’ friend Ad Reinhardt picked up on the subject. Yes, he said, everybody around the table should be asked to say something about their relation to the outside world.

There must have been a long pause, or some sign of embarrassment, because the next thing said was the moderator Alfred Barr’s remark, “Apparently many people don’t want to answer that question.” To which de Kooning replied that the reason they didn’t answer was because as artists they had no position in the outside world; Jimmy Ernst suggested that the choice was between being unattached to any part of society and making pictures of President Truman; Bradley Walker Tomlin added that before artists analyzed their position in relation to the world, they had better analyze their position in relation to one another; and Newman ended the exchange by returning to a comment of Motherwell’s on the problem of existing in the world as men and growing in one’s own work.

Norman Lewis wasn’t technically absent from this session, just as he wasn’t absent from the commercial galleries. But his effectiveness as a subject, as one who could direct the action, was denied. The other artists at the table weren’t even willing to engage his thinking until it was mediated by Reinhardt; and when they did reply, the function of their responses was to erase the question. It wasn’t necessary to analyze their relation to the outside world, the white artists claimed; this wasn’t an issue. That was that. Not only was the problem of talking directly to Lewis avoided, but the discussion he broached, with its underlying issues of class, patronage, and spectatorship, was dismissed. These artists were in a position to “see” Norman Lewis and his work, but they shut out any communication that might affect their control of the scene. They might use an African-American presence to bolster a white position, but they made sure that as a subject, as a person with a say in the discourse, Lewis was invalidated.27

The fact that most of these whites could not see Lewis as a subject reflected, of course, their own problems with the idea of “race.” Their perceptions of what it meant to be “Negro” (to use the language of the day) were strictly limited. Asked what the viewers of the period would likely think about a painting by an African-American, the sculptor and painter Dorothy Dehner, who showed with Lewis at the Willard Gallery, replied, “They’d say, ‘A Negro painted that.’ The implication was that it was somehow unworthy.”28

Abstract Expressionism was an art in which making and meaning were seen as interdependent to an unprecedented degree. The meanings of the paintings reverberated like electricity in the charged space between the objects and the artists—the subjects—who produced them; the work and the artist were inseparable. And if the work and the artist were in parity, a black man who failed to fit the stereotype of the progressive, socially concerned African-American artist (like Charles White or Jacob Lawrence)—but who was no “primitive” either—simply had no place. When the chips were down and the canon was narrowed, Lewis was disappeared.

Ann Gibson teaches in the Department of Art at SUNY, Stony Brook, New York. Her book Issues in Abstract Expressionism: The Artist-Run Periodical was published by UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, in 1990, and her Abstract Expressionism Recast is to be published by Yale University Press.

Norman Lewis’ work is to be included in the British exhibition “Mythmaking: Abstract Expressionism from the United Stales of America,” curated by David Craven, which opens this month at the Tate Gallery, Liverpool. It will also appear in “Theme and Improvisation: Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 1912–1950,” curated by Marianne Lorenz of the Dayton Art Institute, opening at the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., in September.



1. This was the rule until the retrospectives of Louise Bourgeois in 1982 and Lee Krasner in 1983 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. More recent and smaller exhibitions of the work of Hedda Sterne (1985), Ruth Abrams (1986), Ethel Schwabacher (1987), Norman Lewis himself in 1989, and Charles Alston (1990), at a variety of different institutions, have begun to turn the tide. The recent biography of Jackson Pollock by Steven Naifeh and Gregory Smith (Jackson Pollock, New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1989) explored the artist’s social and perhaps sexual acquaintance with the gay subcultures of New York and Provincetown; although the incidents reported were mostly hearsay, and an adequate sexual analysis of Pollock’s work remains to be done, the book has brought to the surface a number of submerged issues that will be instrumental in redefining Abstract Expressionism, among them its compulsory heterosexuality and its misogyny.

2. Norman Lewis, “Thesis,” 1946, in Corinne Jennings, ed., Norman Lewis: From the Harlem Renaissance to Abstraction, exhibition catalogue, New: York: Kenkeleba Gallery, 1989, p. 63.

3. Although Robert Coates had used the term “Abstract Expressionism” in a review in 1946, it didn’t come into use as a label for the work produced by Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and the rest until 1952. See Irving Sandler, The Triumph of American Painting, New York: Harper & Row, 1970, p. 2.

4. Lewis, p. 63.

5. Clement Greenberg called Pollock’s work “turbulent,” “ugly,” “violent and extravagant.” Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, ed. John O’Brian. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1986, 11:16, 75. Greenberg equated the appearance of “ugliness” with originality (ibid., p. 80).

6. See B. H. Friedman, “An Interview with Lee Krasner,” Jackson Pollock: Black and White, exhibition catalogue, New: York: Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, 1969, n.p.

7. E. A. Carmean, Jr., “Introduction,” in Carmean and Eliza E. Rathbone with Thomas B. Hess, American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1978, p. 15.

8. See ibid., pp. 16–17 and 33–34.

9. Ibid., p. 36.

10. Ibid., p. 38.

11. Ibid., p. 34.

12. See Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, London: NLB, 1971, pp. 127–86.

13. Henry McBride, in the New York Sun in 1949 and in Artnews in 1951, quoted in Thomas Lawson, Norman Lewis: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, New York: The Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, 1976, n.p.

14. See “The Art Galleries,” Daily Worker, New York, 18 March 1949, p. 12.

15. See Ellen J. Landau, “The Wild One.” Jackson Pollock, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989, pp. 11–21.

16. See Michael Leja, “Jackson Pollock: Representing the Unconscious,” Art History 13 no. 4. December 1990, pp. 542–65.

17. For Adolph Gottlieb’s collection of African art, see Charlotta Kotik, “Image and Reflection: Adolph Gottlieb’s Pictographs and African Sculpture,” exhibition pamphlet, New York: The Brooklyn Museum, 1990. For Pollock’s interest in sand painting see W. Jackson Rushing, “Ritual and Myth: Native American Culture and Abstract Expressionism,” in The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and New York: Abbeville Press, 1986, pp. 282–91.

18/ Barnett Newman, Robert Goldwater, Victor Lowenfeld, and the “Indian Space” painters (see Sandra Kraskin and Barbara Hollister, The Indian Space Painters, exhibition catalogue, New York: The City University of New York/The Sidney Mishkin Gallery of Baruch College, 1991) may provide exceptions to the era’s generally qualified attitude toward Native American and African art in comparison to Modern art.

19. John D. Graham, “Primitive Art and Picasso,” Magazine of Art 30 no. 4, Washington, D.C., April 1937, p. 238.

20. In 1941, Elijah Muhammed went to prison for counseling draft evasion: there were riots in Harlem in 1943. After being fired for the third time from defense-plant work, James Baldwin threw a mug at a waitress who wouldn’t serve him. (I heard the incident recounted in “James Baldwin: The Price of a Ticket,” 1989, a film directed by Karen Thorsen and produced by American Masters, New York, in collaboration with Nobody Knows Productions and Maysles Film. Baldwin himself told the story in Notes of a Native Son, Boston: Beacon Press, 1955. pp. 95–96; my thanks to David Leeming for guiding me to the original source.) Lewis himself left the Kaiser Shipyards in Vancouver because “there were too many accidents, strange accidents where Negroes got hurt and there was too much intimidation and it was too hard for a Negro to be anything except a laborer.” (Lewis, quoted in the New York Post, 6 October 1943. The clipping is in the Norman Lewis papers in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., R92/fr96.)

21. See Rushing, “Marketing the Affinity of the Primitive and the Modern: René D’Harnoncourt and Indian Art of the United States,” in The Early Years of Native American Art History: Essays on the Politics of Scholarship and Collecting (tentative title), ed. Janet Berlo, Seattle: University of Washington Press, forthcoming in 1992.

22. Frederic M. Douglas and René D’Harnoncourt, Indian Art of the United States, exhibition catalogue, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1941. p. 13.

23. See Kraskin and Hollister.

24. For an update on what might be called “African Space,” see Robert L. Douglas, “Formalizing an African-American aesthetic,” The New Art Examiner 18 no. 10, Chicago, June/Summer 1991, pp. 18–24.

25. Joan Murray Weissman, in an interview with the author, October 1991.

26. The transcript, edited by Robert Goodnough. was printed in Modern Artists in America, a periodical edited by Motherwell and Ad Reinhardt, in 1951. This exchange is on p. 16.

27. David Craven, in his “Abstract Expressionism and Third World Art: A Post-Colonial Approach to ‘American’ Art,” The Oxford Art Journal 14 no. 1, 1991, p. 58, reads this important exchange more positively than I do, seeing it as an example of the white artists’ empathy with Lewis’ marginalized position.

28. Dorothy Dehner, in an interview with the author, New York, June 1987.