Red collection growth in Cologne
There is no donkey in the painting “Flogging the Dead Donkey” by British artist Frank Bowling. Instead, the abstract composition is dominated by deep red tones. Shimmering brightly, they skirt the rectangular canvas and condense centrally into a brownish black core. The center of the picture looks like a battle of colors. Blue, green, and golden drops stand out in the darkness; deep red splashes push outwards. The interplay of color flow, chance, and geometry is characteristic of the 88-year-old painter’s work.
With „Flogging a Dead Horse“ Bowling ironically references monochrome painting
Bowling borrowed the title of this work, created in 2020, from the colloquial expression “flogging a dead horse.” When one flogs a dead horse one invests time and energy in an endeavor that has long since failed, or takes up a theme that has already been addressed many times. Bowling ironically references monochrome painting, which has been dealt with repeatedly in art history and which he incorporates into his own practice and continues to develop today.
When he moved from London to New York in 1966, he encountered works by Mark Rothko, Barnett, and Marcia Hafif, who experimented with this kind of monochrome painting. Focusing on dynamic painting techniques and color field painting, Bolwing found his place alongside them in abstract art. He has since departed from representational painting, which characterized his early work.
The first painting by the artist Frank Bowling to be included in a public German collection, “Flogging the dead Donkey,” will move into Cologne's Museum Ludwig on November 15
Frank Bowling, Flogging the Dead Donkey, 2020, Acrylic and acrylic Gel on canvas with marouflage, 102.5 x 185.5 cm, © Frank Bowling/ VG Bild-Kunst-Bonn, Courtesy: the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo: Damian Griffiths
The first painting by the artist to be included in a public German collection, “Flogging the dead Donkey,” will move into Cologne's Museum Ludwig on November 15. The occasion is the awarding of the Wolfgang Hahn Prize 2022 to the artist for his remarkable oeuvre. Guest juror Zoé Whitley, who joined the six board members of Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst on the grand jury, sees Bowling as a “uniquely inventive personality in the history of abstract painting.”
Chairman of the board of Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst
Born in 1934 in what was then British Guiana on the north coast of South America, Bowling moved to London at the age of 19, where he completed his painting studies at the Royal College of Art in 1962. In addition to being an artist, Bowling figured prominently in debates about African-American art in New York as editor of Arts Magazine from 1969 to 1972. He advocated for artists to have the right to freely participate in any form of artistic expression, regardless of their identity or origin.
“This tribute to his work comes at the end of a long career and the beginning of his categorization in art history as a classic," said Mayen Beckmann, chairman of the board of Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst.
For museum director Yilmaz Dziewior, the long-awaited new acquisition, in which the spirit of American color-field painting and British abstraction blend in an incomparable way, finally fills a gap in the collection of abstract works.
Text: Sophie Angelov