Spilling Over

Solo en Inglès

"More often than not, you have to assume that there is some sort of relationship between radical gestures and art, and radical gestures and the world."
—Rashid Johnson

Hear from the artists, the exhibition’s curator, and scholars speaking about works on view.

Dan Johnson’s Surprise, 1969

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Narrator: In Dan Johnson’s Surprise, Frank Bowling—who was born in Guyana—used a map of South America to structure a largely abstract composition. In this 2012 interview with the Tate Modern, he described his approach at the time he made this work. 

Frank Bowling: In my youth I tended to look at the tragic side of human behavior and try and reflect that in my work, but gradually as I became more involved in the making of paintings, I realized that one of the main ingredients in making paintings was color and geometry. 

And then, by sheer chance, the map shapes appeared whilst I was in Hotel Chelsea, so I started painting maps of South America and Guyana, and then I decided that I would do the entire flat map as a motif to work with. I just found the shapes and graphics suggested in maps very engaging.

Darby English: He was completely identified with that language of modernism, but something stops Bowling from going all the way abstract, and he lets you know that by putting a figure or an outline of the South American continent into the painting.

Narrator: Darby English is an art historian, and author of 1971: A Year in the Life of Color. 

Darby English: He had to leave a little bit of the world in, and that to me is what I think he’s doing at this moment. 

A painting that depictes the shape of South America three times, under diluted color washes

Narrator: In Dan Johnson’s Surprise, Frank Bowling—who was born in Guyana—used a map of South America to structure a largely abstract composition. In this 2012 interview with the Tate Modern, he described his approach at the time he made this work. 

Frank Bowling: In my youth I tended to look at the tragic side of human behavior and try and reflect that in my work, but gradually as I became more involved in the making of paintings, I realized that one of the main ingredients in making paintings was color and geometry. 

And then, by sheer chance, the map shapes appeared whilst I was in Hotel Chelsea, so I started painting maps of South America and Guyana, and then I decided that I would do the entire flat map as a motif to work with. I just found the shapes and graphics suggested in maps very engaging.

Darby English: He was completely identified with that language of modernism, but something stops Bowling from going all the way abstract, and he lets you know that by putting a figure or an outline of the South American continent into the painting.

Narrator: Darby English is an art historian, and author of 1971: A Year in the Life of Color. 

Darby English: He had to leave a little bit of the world in, and that to me is what I think he’s doing at this moment. 


Frank Bowling, Dan Johnson's Surprise, 1969. Acrylic on canvas, 115 15/16 × 104 1/8 in. (294.5 × 264.5 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art 70.14. © 2019 Frank Bowling/Licensing by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York