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Spiral by Courtney Martin

Posted August 05, 2010 by admin

Spiral

by Courtney Martin


"And later, after 1945, a group of artists formed The Spiral. This was the time of
the first march on Washington and we thought it might be interesting as a group
of Negro artists maybe to hire a bus – a great number of people, as you know,
were converging on Washington – and go down to represent the Negro artists.
Then a number of the people who came to the first meetings when we were
discussing this idea felt what we had was so important that we should continue.
And finally we got our own studio and meeting place on Christopher Street. And
these meetings and discussing the identity of the Negro, what a Negro artist is, or
if there is such a thing, all of these pro and con discussions, meant a great deal to
me especially in the formulation of my present ideas and way of
painting."(1)

"There were some of us, like Jimmy Yeargans, who were very political about
what we felt. We took the initiative to right situations that we felt were
wrong."(2)

In African American art circles, Spiral, the collective of artists organized by
Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Charles Alston, is the perfect model of an artists'
group. (3) Under the banner of civil rights, they sought to address aesthetic, social, and
cultural concerns pertinent to the turbulent 1960's. As they bantered about the existence
of the Negro artist at their weekly meetings, beginning in the summer of 1963 through
1966, they are purported to have supported each other artistically and emotionally. The
older, New York artists mentored the new comers. The more established networked with
those who were struggling to find a place in the art world. They worked in solidarity to
mount their own exhibitions. They even endeavored to create a communal work of art.
The focus of their first collective action was the March on Washington, slated for August
28, 1963.(4) The story of Spiral is told as one of a search for a utopia where an ideal of
artistic praxis would merge, but not be conflated with, their lived experiences as black
people.(5)

The Spiral

Spiral's visual material reflected its lofty ideals. Hale Woodruff chose the spiral,
"a particular kind of spiral, the Archimedean one; because, from a starting point, it moves
outward embracing all directions yet constantly upward,"(6) as both the name for the group
and its logo. The spiral logo, with numbered segments from 0 to 15, embellished the
invitation (Figure 1) and catalog (Figure 2) from their "works in black & white"
exhibition. In the catalog, each artist is pictured and listed alphabetically, suggesting a
unity of aesthetic principles and the non-hierarchical structure of the group.


An undocumented doodle (Figure 3) from Bearden's archive poses an alternate
way to approach Spiral. The seemingly haphazard list of the fifteen artists is illustrated
with a caricature of Lewis and Bearden standing chest to chest in the lower right corner
of the page.(7) In the upper right corner of the page is another image. Vertically, it
resembles an angel. It is similar to the type of figuration found in Bearden's collages.
Viewed horizontally, it is a woman in a reclining poise. In either case, only the two
figures in the lower right portion of the page engage with each other.


The position of the figures of Bearden and Lewis is telling. Bearden, known as the
solvent for the group and a natural statesman, and Lewis, thought to be argumentative
and politically radical, were close friends and colleagues for most of their lives, despite
their personality difference. In addition to temperament, they were divided stylistically.
Lewis was a decided painter who had abandoned figural and realist styles well before
World War II. He had been a participant in the Alfred Barr conversations that provided a
structure to the Abex movement. At a time of intense focus on abstraction in art, Bearden
moved between abstract and figural work. Spiral became the catalyst for his exploration
of photography and collage, and his final reentry into figuration. As founders of the
group, they positioned themselves as the two polarities for the other artists. One either
agreed with Lewis or with Bearden. The configuration of the cartoon suggests that Spiral
was the forum for their artistic debates. The haphazardly doodled list of the other
member's names alludes to their function as an audience for Bearden and Lewis.



The third founder, Spinky Alston seems to have been more interested in creating a
space for community, as he had done in Harlem by opening his studio "306" to artists,
children, and the neighborhood. Due to his age and success, he would have had less to
gain in the binary debates instigated by Lewis and Bearden.


Spinky was rarely at the meetings after I joined. When he came, he didn't speak
very much. It's only now that I've seen his work that I've come to appreciate it,
but he was a star to Bearden and to Norman Lewis, because he'd become well-
known before they had."(8)

Alston's place at the top of Bearden's list, before either him or Lewis, and not as a
caricature, seems innocuous. Was it a fluke of Bearden's memory while scribbling the
names? The spiral logo was numbered and correlated to each of the fifteen members. If
these numbers were matched to each of the members, Alston would have been the first in
either an alphabetical listing and in Bearden's list. Moreover, each person came to the
group at the invitation of the founders or by recommendation from one of the first
invitees. The selection process replicated a spiral originating from Alston, Bearden, and
Lewis. The ambiguity of the single figure does not aid either reading, though it does
suggest a triangular configuration. Like the single cartoon, Alston was at a remove from
the group's internal dynamic.

The March

Bearden's doodle is a fragmentary fissure in the seeming unity of Spiral. A more
concrete break is their planned trip to the March on Washington. Floyd Coleman sites an
interview with Richard Mayhew from 1995, where he recalls that the group converged at
the request of A. Phillip Randolph.(9) Traveling to the March together was their
primary reason for organizing; however, there is no solid confirmation that they chartered
a bus and traveled to Washington as a group. Mary Schmidt Campbell states that they
abandoned the idea of going to the March as a group, but she provides neither reason nor
evidence for her conclusion.(10)


It is likely that the "Spirals" went to Washington separately. Though Reginald
Gammon and Richard Mayhew recalled going to the March "as a group,"(11) Gammon
dates his entry into Spiral in 1965, two years after the March. And Lewis corroborates the
late entry of Gammon and others.(12) It is clear that Lewis did not attend the March with
Spiral members. He went with friends Ad Reinhardt and Rudolf Baranik.(13) His example
and the memories of Gammon, Mayhew, and Bearden suggest that most of the Spiral
group attended the March. According to Bayard Rustin's analysis, they fit the
demographic of attendees in Washington. They were northern, middle class, and urban.
The musing for a pilgrimage to Washington speaks to their ideological insularity as
artists and urban New Yorkers. Their empathy for civil rights was echoed by many black
Americans.


Gammon's and Mayhew's statements may not be acts of selective memory or
attempts to bolster the history of Spiral. It is likely that they traveled to D.C. in subsets
of the Spiral group, delineated by their interests and internal friendships. Gammon and
Mayhew may have remembered going to D.C. with members for whom they had an
affinity. Their self-selected subgroup may have seemed like the entirety of Spiral to
them. Mayhew is credited with inviting Gammon and Majors into Spiral; all were on
friendly terms with Bearden. Gammon played an active role in Bearden's collective
project. It is, therefore, conceivable that they would have journeyed together. Lewis's
travel partners speak strongly to his primary affinity as an established abstract
expressionist.


The Weekly Meetings

From that initial meeting in 1963, they began to meet weekly to discuss issues
related to art practice and concerns specific to artists, like grants.(14) Early on a split
developed between those that worked figuratively and those that had moved into
abstraction, led by Lewis. Lewis felt that the Spiral artists, unlike the American Artists
Congress members and the artists he knew from the Cedar Bar, spent too much time
talking about money and not enough about art.


I used to see Mark Rothko, Barney Newman, Reinhardt there. Then they were
talking about Abstract Expressionism. A lot of these artists didn't have any
money, but they didn't talk about economics, but about art. Black artists talk
about how much money they make.(15)

Bearden's approach was geared toward having Spiral work on group projects. He
experimented with collage with the hope that all fifteen members would work together.
Bearden is said to have embarked upon a revelation of collage as a mixture of the abstract
and the representational. The process quelled his desire to incorporate social realism and
the post-war tenets of modernity into his work. The collaborative aspect of this project
ended with Reginald Gammon's suggestion that he photographically enlarge the small
work.(16) According to Emma Amos,


Romy was very articulate and very smart and he knew his history, and he was not
argumentative, as was Norman. He was not flashy. In personality, he was kind of like
the glue for that group. His work he kept pretty much to himself except for one episode I
remember, where he had been cutting out these magazine pieces and he brought them to a
meeting and he wanted everybody to work on them together. This was a form of dealing
with negritude, and he wanted to know if we could do something together and if
something unique would come out of it. He wanted everybody to make clippings, and
somehow or other, nobody wanted to do it. I don't remember Norman's words, but I
remember his attitude was, "I don't want to do what you want to do. If you want to do
that, go off and do it." And Bearden went off and did it by himself."(17)

The two aesthetic camps in the group were further split by political concerns.
Gammon and others were wary of aligning with their white counterparts.


"(t)he difference between Spiral and this group was that some people in Spiral
thought we should have white people in it, and there were others who said we
shouldn't. I was of the mind that we shouldn't. There were all kinds of clubs for
white artists and they didn't go out of their way to invite us."(18)

Lewis, Woodruff, and Bearden had long been involved with downtown groups like
Studio 35. They had become connected to white artists during the W.P.A. projects and
maintained formal and social connections with them. Alston was the first black person to
supervise a division of the Federal Arts Project and to teach at the Art Students League.
Lewis, among others, was a regular at the Cedar Bar.


The overtly leftist connections of Yeargans and Lewis, a labor supporter and
union organizer, were also a concern.(19) Most of the older artists had been connected to the Harlem Renaissance era collectives and schools. After leaving Columbia, Alston ran the "306" group with Mike Bannarn out of his studio at 306 West 141st Street.(20) Alston was involved with the Harlem Art Workshop, the Harlem Artists Guild, and the Harlem Community Art Center with Augusta Savage and Gwendolyn Bennett. Bearden, Lewis, and Jacob Lawrence ultimately participated as well.


From these groups emerged an interaction with communist groups who supported
black artists and civil rights. While only Yeargans and Lewis may have been actively
communist, Alston suggests that most black artists had interacted with
communism,

You had to be. You had to be supportive, because they dealt with Negro rights
and changes in situations in the south. How could you not do it? (21)

The taint of the red scare had demonized many in Harlem's art community, most notably
Paul Robeson and the actor Canada Lee.(22) Lewis acquired an FBI file and Yeargans
became cautious about political activity later in life. (23)


Their political diversity and artistic alliances devolved into personal attacks.
Spiral suffered a loss in moral as some members were ousted and others stopped coming.
Lewis, described as bitter about his exclusion from the success of the Abex movement by
Amos, became increasingly vocal about the shortcomings of the group,


To begin with there were fifteen of us. Then a lot of people got it, because I don't
think we were discriminating enough. After a while it got to be a social club,
which was unfortunate. But despite that the feeling continued that there was a
need for this place.(24)


Lewis accused Gammon of being inexperienced, while lauding Woodruff, Simpson, and
Alston, artists that he felt were of his stature.(25) Gammon recalls friction between Lewis
and him and between Majors and him, which led to Gammon's ousting.(26) Majors is said
to have baited Woodruff into an argument that ended with Woodruff vowing never to
return.(27) Amos and Gammon report feeling that the older members were so riddled with
jealously and competitiveness toward each other that they promoted a discouraging and
unsupportive atmosphere for all. Allegedly, Hines peppered the meetings with "Shut
up!"(28) Amos recalls, "I think that I began to know that nobody cared about what I was
doing in the sixties. I learned that by listening to the trials and tribulations of the
guys…"(29) By 1966, Gammon and Alston no longer spoke to each other.(30)

"black & white"

If the idea of a spiral connotes a continuous network of movement and
progressive mobility, the reality of Spiral's exhibition betrays the debilitating
factionalism of the group. The first group show was slated for the spring of 1964, less
than a year after they began to meet. It was to be titled "Mississippi 64" or "Mississippi
USA," to call attention to the plight of the civil rights movement and black Americans in
the south. Mississippi was a synecdoche for their fantasy of the mythic "South."
(31)


"In Spiral, when we did the black and white show, we sat for many hours and
discussed what we could do that would be telling about what Spiral is. We figured
rather than saying "Mississippi USA," it would be better to say a black and white
show and present our views, no matter how we painted them. Most of those men
did abstracts. It was black and white and it was basic."(32)

The "South" was a conflation of longing and desire for the members of Spiral. In
response to questions from Charles Rowell about his connection to the South, Bearden
responded,


I guess some psychologists say that when you think of the past it gives you a
sense of security. I don't know very much about psychology, but I know I put the
South in my work because it seems near to me. I can't seem to exhaust the things
that I remember. The South seems to me, in other words, to be more in my work
than any other place.(33)

Many were expatriates or first generation migrants from southern states. Both Alston and
Bearden were from Charlotte, North Carolina. Amos grew up in Martin Luther King's
"Sweet Auburn" neighborhood in Atlanta.(34) Her parents had been acquainted with
Woodruff during his tenure at Atlanta University. Simpson was from Charleston, South
Carolina. Douglass was from Baltimore. Though Majors was from Indiana, his mother
was from Tennessee, and he spent his childhood summers there with his grandparents.(35)



The "South" was a fantasy, a mixture of faint childhood memories and parental
musing. They fetishized the "South" for its food, language, charm, and its landscapes, or
as Alston recalled, being "very much impressed by the rural Southern scene,"(36) while
being unable to commit to the struggle for civil rights.


New York allowed immigrants of all types the freedom to explore and activate
personal realities previously denied or unknown to them.(37) For black artists, New York
was an ironic contradiction. Though their personal freedoms as black individuals may
have been enhanced by immigrating to New York, their artistic ideals were quashed in
the Jim Crow era art world, where few gained entrance into galleries, and even fewer
cultivated long term collectors. Museums and philanthropic organizations saw them as
fodder for token all-black shows. And art schools restricted their access to courses and
questioned their ability to teach.(38) In the mid-1920's, Columbia restricted Alston from
figure drawing, a required course, because "there might be a white nude model." (39)



It is no wonder that many black artists past mid-century sought solace outside the
country. Amos described London as a release from the racial oppression in the States,



Then in London as an art student, I had that wonderful feeling of release. The
English didn't dislike me because I was black. They disliked me because I wasn't
English. They also disliked Hungarians, and they didn't like French people, or
any foreigners. It was a great revelation.(40)

Europe was to black artists what New York was to southern black immigrants. Of the
Spiral artists, Mayhew lived in Florence for four years.(41) Majors attended school in Italy.
Miller returned to America after an extended period in Europe, just as Spiral was being
organized.(42) By 1968 Simpson spent "at least eight months of the year in Europe and four
months" in the States. He recalls, "and I guess the reason that I spend more time in
Europe is just that I'm more comfortable there."(43)


No doubt they equated their isolation as artists and their struggles as black artists,
within the white art world in New York, with the separate and unequal status of blacks
and whites in southern states. The distance of their individual migrations and the social
awareness of the time fueled their desire to make the smallest action, naming the
exhibition Mississippi, both overtly political and self-promotionally personal.



In the end, they chose a title and concept for the show that revealed more about
the nature of the group than the inflammatory, "Mississippi." The show held in the spring
of 1965 at their Christopher Street space, was restricted to a black and white palette. It
was titled "Spiral" and subtitled, in lower case letters, "works in black & white."(44) The
title betrayed the harsh reality of the group: a meeting of artists who had little in common
other than the social construction of their race and the racial tyranny of the art world. The
over determined binary of black and white needed no further explanation, nor was it
complicated by condition or degree. The show was a metaphor for the problematic
nuances of the situation; established artists relegated to consolidating their resources to
exhibit with less established artists.


Even the inclusion of Amos is dogged by the burden of her role as emissary
between the old guard black artists, younger black artists, and the burgeoning feminist art
movement of which she would be a part and a pawn in the years to come. Was Amos
merely a token? Was she a lesson from the older male artists to the younger about the
mistake of excluding women from the ranks?


I was the only woman and I was the youngest member, when they did invite me.
I'm not sure they invited other people by looking at their work, but they were very
nervous about having a woman in their group, and they wanted to make sure I was
a real artist and not a dilettante or something. I think that they asked me to join
the club (which met once a week for discussion) instead of women they knew,
because those women represented some sort of threat, and I was only "a little
girl.(45)

According to Gammon the opening of "works in black & white" was well
attended, but due to the in-fighting there was no press coverage or critical review.
Spiral's internal friction came to a head during the exhibition. Hollingsworth deviated
from the only unifying tenet of the show by using brown in his painting. His visual
dissent from the other members was meant to defy Bearden and Lewis.(46) Just after the
show closed, the landlord at 147 Christopher raised the rent on the space from $95 to
$150 per month.


We looked all around. This was before SoHo, and we couldn't find a place, We
couldn't get these guys to give ten dollars a month. They'd go out and spend fifty
dollars on booze, and you couldn't get ten dollars for rent. We were trying to find
a place for less than a hundred dollars, but most places were $110 or
$125.(47)

Unable to find a comparable rental, Spiral stopped meeting. The apathy that brought
about the demise of the group was, no doubt, the passive reaction to the insurmountable
differences that had plagued them since their initial meeting.


A closer examination of the Spiral group disrupts the pristine model that art
historians have constructed for it. The artists were often at odds with each other; yet, they
had to rely on each other. Their aesthetic interests were a poor match, and their skill
levels were unbalanced. However, the art world had dealt them similar blows. As Lewis
later recalled,


Once we got together in Spiral we became aware of our poverty and how much
we needed each other. In unity there's strength. So we stuck
together."(48)

Though the "works in black & white" show was an attempt to flatten out these
differences, it highlighted the more fundamental differences in temperament and
approach that each of these artists exercised in their meetings.


The unraveling of Spiral as a model of perfection is far more interesting than
situating it, as a de facto success of African-American art or American art, the two genres
in which it most easily fits. Perhaps, Spiral can best be construed as a proto-type. In this
sense, its starts and stops are part of an evolving continuum. The real achievement of the
group is not Bearden's collages, nor is it Lewis's redemption as an abstract artist. The
success of the group is the archive of their interaction. Spiral provides a lasting glimpse
into the collective frustrations of black American artists in the 20th century.



Footnotes



1. Henri Ghent, Interview with Romare Bearden. June 29, 1968. Smithsonian Archives of American Art,
7.


2. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974." Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
70-91.


3. See Appendix A for a list of the Spiral members.


4. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 was organized by A. Phillip
Randolph, Bayard Rustin, the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Congress of Racial Equality
(CORE), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the National Catholic Conference for
Interracial Justice, the National Council of Churches, the United Auto Workers (UAW), and the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and other church, lay, and civic entities. Randolph, then the
leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, canceled an earlier march in 1941 after President
Roosevelt (FDR) ordered a federal ban on excluding blacks from defense work. The organization and
success of the earlier march, as a threat to the government, created an infrastructure for the 1963
march.


5. The terms black and African-American are historically inaccurate in describing the
members of Spiral. I chose to use black because of its current meaning and the negative
connotations of the terms that may be historically accurate. Most likely, the Spiral group would have called
themselves Negroes. They might have been described as colored by each other and others.
Black is a term that may have been used in the 1950's in New York; for the majority of the country,
black came into everyday parlance toward the end of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning
of the Black Power movement in the late 1960's. African-American is a post-Black Power term
that was not in full usage until the late 1980's. During the March on Washington, the twenty-three year old
John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was said to have been
the only speaker to have addressed the audiences as blacks. The others had called themselves and their
constituents Negroes. The gulf in terms represented by these two is marked by age, class, and
region. Coming from rural Alabama, Lewis and the other speakers addressed a primarily middle class,
urban, northern audience that was as much as one quarter white. Lewis's departure from the term may
have been a radical act, not unlike the lunch counter protests that he led as a student in Nashville, TN.
Spiral's period is marked by the change in tenor of racial nuance in America, like racial terms. In the
Siegel article, Perry Ferguson uses Negro, but is interrupted by James Yeargans who prefers
Afro
to Negro. Merton Simpson refers to himself and others as Negroes in his 1968
Archives of American Art interview. By 1993, Emma Amos collapsed the past and the present by
describing herself and others as black during the 60's. See Bayard Rustin Papers at Yale University
or Juan Williams and Dante J. James. "A. Philip Randolph [video recording]: For Jobs & Freedom/ WETA-
TV." San Francisco: California Newsreel, 1996.


6. "Spiral: First Group Showing (works in black & white)," May 14 – June 24, 1965.


7. Bearden is the figure on the left and Lewis is on the right. To date, the Bearden Foundation has not
authenticated the date of this work.


8. Interview with Emma Amos from 1993, reprinted in Hooks, Bell. Art on My Mind: Visual Politics
(New York: New Press, 1995).


9. Floyd Coleman, "The Changing Same: Spiral, the Sixties, and African-American Art," in A Shared
Heritage: Art by Four African Americans,
eds. William E. Taylor and Harriet G. Warkel (Indianapolis:
Indianapolis Museum of Art, with Indiana University Press, 1996) 149.


10. Mary Schmidt Campbell, "Part 1: The Civil Rights Movement – An Awakening" in Tradition and
Conflict: Images of a Turbulent Decade, 1963-1973
(New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1985) 45.



11. Joy Hakanson Colby, "Getting Back on an Upward Spiral." The Detroit News 28 June 1989: 3D
and Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974." Artist and Influence
15, 1996: 106.


12. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
83.


13. David Craven, "Norman Lewis as Political Activist and Post-Colonial Artist," in Norman Lewis:
Black Paintings 1946-1977,
ed. Stephanie Salomon (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1988)
53.


14. Before joining Spiral, Gammon asked members, most likely Mayhew and Bearden, to write letters of
support for his Whitney fellowship application. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #2: Interview October
15, 1995," Artist and Influence 15, 1996: 115.


15. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
90.


16. Henri Ghent, Interview with Romare Bearden. June 29, 1968. Smithsonian Archives of American
Art.


17. Interview with Emma Amos from 1993, reprinted in Hooks, Bell. Art on My Mind: Visual Politics
(New York: New Press, 1995).


18. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974." Artist and Influence 15,
1996: 109.


19. For a discussion of Lewis's political activity, see David Craven, "Norman Lewis as Political Activist and
Post-Colonial Artist," in Norman Lewis: Black Paintings 1946-1977, ed. Stephanie Salomon
(New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1988). Camille Billops and Gammon alludes to Yeargans political
affinity in Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974." Artist and Influence
15, 1996: 106.


20. Camille Billops and Ivie Jackman, "Charles Alston: Interview, January 27, 1975." Artist and
Influence
15, 1996: p.23-24.


21. Camille Billops and Ivie Jackman, "Charles Alston: Interview, January 27, 1975." Artist and
Influence
15, 1996: 32.


22. Camille Billops and Ivie Jackman, "Charles Alston: Interview, January 27, 1975." Artist and
Influence
15, 1996. 27-28.


23. David Craven, "Norman Lewis as Political Activist and Post-Colonial Artist," in Norman Lewis:
Black Paintings 1946-1977, ed. Stephanie Salomon (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1988) 51-
60 and Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974." Artist and Influence
15, 1996: 100-110.


24. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence18, 1999:
83.


25. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence18, 1999:
82-84.


26. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #2: Interview October 15, 1995," Artist and Influence15,
1996: 111-121.


27. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
82-84.


28. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #2: Interview October 15, 1995," Artist and Influence 15,
1996: 119.


29. Interview with Emma Amos from 1993, reprinted in bell hooks, Art on My Mind: Visual
Politics,
(New York: New Press, 1995).


30. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #2: Interview October 15, 1995," Artist and Influence 15,
1996: 119.


31. Jeanne Siegel, "Why Spiral?" ArtNews 65.5, September 1966: 48-51, 67, 68.


32. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974," Artist and Influence 15,
1996:108.


33. Charles H. Rowell, "Inscription at the City of Brass."Callaloo36, Summer 1988:
430.


34. Julia Hotton, "Emma Amos: Woman of Substance."African American Review19:24-
25.


35. "William Majors, Distinctions: Approaches to Drawing." February 11-March 26, 1993. The Bertha and
Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, Hunter College of the City University of New York: 5.


36. Al Murray, Oral History Interview with Charles Alston. October, 1968. Smithsonian Archives of
American Art.


37. The waves of Black Americans from the South, who traveled to New York and other urban centers
following both World Wars, are often described as migrants. New York was an anomaly within the United
States. Its appeal as a metropolis and world city made any entering body from outside its boundaries an
immigrant. Further, if migration is tied to labor demands and itinerancy, work was not the primary draw
for southern Blacks to New York. Nor were they without stable communities. Many were attracted by the
potential of places like Harlem or Broadway as portals for unlimited excitement.


38. Alston and Lewis reported difficulty with students and staff at the Arts Students League. Vivian Browne,
"Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence18, 1999: 86. Camille Billops
and Ivie Jackman, "Charles Alston: Interview, January 27, 1975," Artist and Influence 15, 1996:
34, 45.


39. Alston also indicts the League on this charge. Al Murray, Oral History Interview with Charles Alston.
October, 1968. Smithsonian Archives of American Art.


40. Interview with Emma Amos from 1993, reprinted in bell hooks, Art on My Mind: Visual Politics
(New York: New Press, 1995).


41. Joy Hakanson Colby, "Getting Back on an Upward Spiral," The Detroit News 28 June 1989:
3D.


42. Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974." Artist and Influence 15,
1996: 106.


43. Al Murray, Tape-Recorded Interview with Merton Simpson. November, 1968. Smithsonian Archives of
American Art.


44. The year of the Spiral exhibition is the subject of debate. There are no extant reviews of the show from
1964 or 1965. Gammon's interview with Camille Billops suggests that the show was not reviewed.
Uncatalogued material from the Bearden Foundation, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Benny
Andrews papers offer contradictory information. The back inside cover of the catalog (Figure 4) lists the
opening preview date as May 14 and the public opening as May 15. The Spiral logo, a spiral with
numbered spokes segmenting it, indicates that there were fifteen members at the time of the exhibition.
Gammon states that he did not join Spiral until 1965, which Lewis substantiates. It possible that the
younger members, Gammon, Amos, and Miller, were invited then. If so, the exhibition would have
occurred in 1965, rather than 1964. Since all sources indicate that the Mississippi idea was planned for
1964 and later abandoned, they may have waited an entire year to exhibit. But the Christopher Street space
was under their sole usage they may have had another smaller undocumented exhibition before "works in
black & white." Gammon states that the first exhibition was a group show and the second was "black &
white." Camille Billops, "Reginald Gammon #1: Interview January 30, 1974," Artist and Influence
15, 1996. Floyd Coleman includes pictures from a Spiral opening dated 1964. Floyd Coleman, "The
Changing Same: Spiral, the Sixties, and African-American Art." In A Shared Heritage: Art by Four
African Americans,
eds. William E. Taylor and Harriet G. Warkel (Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum
of Art, with Indiana University Press, 1996). Jeanne Siegel discusses the discarded "Mississippi" idea and
the "black & white" show and dates both to 1964, indicating that "black & white" was the immediate
replacement for "Mississippi." Jeanne Siegel, "Why Spiral?" ArtNews 65.5, September 1966: 50-
51. Kellie Jones' chronology of Norman Lewis's life lists 1965 as the date of the only Spiral show.
"Norman Lewis: From the Harlem Renaissance to Abstraction. May 10, 1989 - June 25, 1980," Kenkeleba
Gallery, New York 1989. Lewis's large- scale painting Processional from 1964 was included in the
exhibition. David Craven writes that it was inspired by Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech
from the 1963 March on Washington. Sources, including Lewis's interview with Vivian Browne, suggests
that the monochromatic theme of the show was his idea. If so, the window between the March in late
August of 1963 and the date of the painting in 1964, suggest that Lewis's idea for a black and white palette
may have been born out of his desire to show Processional.David Craven, "Norman Lewis as
Political Activist and Post-Colonial Artist," in Norman Lewis: Black Paintings 1946-1977, ed.
Stephanie Salomon (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1988): 55.


45. Interview with Emma Amos from 1993, reprinted in bell hooks,Art on My Mind: Visual Politics,
(New York: New Press, 1995).


46. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
83.


47. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
84.


48. Vivian Browne, "Norman Lewis: Interview, August 29, 1974," Artist and Influence 18, 1999:
84.