Here is an activity for you to try. Its best not to scroll
down through the rest of Judys Journal. Just look at this
painting for a few minutes, then note your initial response
to it, your gut feelings about it. What do you think?
Next, here are a couple of facts about the painting. Read them
and look back at the image.
1. Its by Norman Lewis (1909-1979). Look back at the painting.
Has anything changed your original gut feelings?
2. Its about 4 feet by 5 feet and titled Evening
Rendezvous. Knowing this information, has anything changed
your earlier feelings or perceptions? When you have finished
thinking about this, scroll down to the next section.
Finally, here are two paragraphs written by Miranda McClintic
in Modernism and Abstraction: Treasures from the Smithsonian
American Art Museum. Watson-Guptill Publications, New York,
Evening Rendezvous is almost impressionist in its stippled
blocks of color and diffusion of form. Looking closer, we see
that this is not a pastoral landscape. It is a birds-eye
view of a Ku Klux Klan gathering. The dominant colors are red,
white, and blue. Does the red area signify burning campfires
or symbolize flowing of blood?
Norman Lewis was a committed political activist in the Civil
Rights movement. Having first painted in a social realist style,
he turned to nonrepresentational art before many other members
of the New York School. He was friends with the abstract expressionist
artists and was a force in the Harlem Renaissance. Lewis evolved
a distinct style of atmospheric color and calligraphic markings
that often symbolize crowds of people involved in rituals, sometimes
identified by titles affirming his social consciousness.
How did knowledge affect each stage of your response to this
painting? It is a question that has transformed my relationship
to art. After seeing Norman Lewiss painting for the first
time, I trained myself to first look at the artwork, then at
the wall label. And I prepare myself for a possible, unforgettable