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Bonfire

Norman Lewis (1909–1979) Bonfire, 1962 Oil on canvas 64 × 49 7/8 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of the Estate of Norman Lewis 1981.1.2

Sharp, abstracted figures surround a vibrant orange center in Norman Lewis’s Bonfire. The title implies a congregation of people whose motivation could be either sinister, as in a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan, or celebratory. Lewis’s use of abstraction engaged with the sociopolitical realities of the 1960s while simultaneously focusing on nuances of color, line, and gesture. He experimented with this balance throughout his career, beginning with figural depictions and moving toward more abstract compositions.