Big Bird’s minor upset: Frank Bowling’s prize-winning entry to the 1966 Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres

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This essay examines Big Bird (1965) by Frank Bowling in the context of its first-prize victory in the category of painting at Tendances et Confrontations, the exhibition of contemporary work by African-descended artists at the 1966 Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres in Dakar, Senegal. Prior literature has examined the content and style of Big Bird, like other works created during the artist’s time in London, primarily with reference to the artist’s biography. This article argues, however, that by re-contextualizing visual tropes associated with well-known American abstractionists, the painting reflects critically upon the ways in which relationships between artistic identity, form and power create meaning. Drawing upon Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s conceptualization of minority, I argue that Big Bird and Tendances et Confrontations play off of one another to upset the perceived stability of the social, racial and intellectual connotations of form and style.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-41
Number of pages15
JournalWorld Art
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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