Accompanying the pivotal 1969 exhibition held in a converted classroom at Stony Brook University, the five-page 5+1 catalogue serves, in Frank Bowling’s words, as “notes from a work in progress.” Printed on russet-colored textured paper, the catalogue remains among the exhibition’s few extant archival materials.
Following a brief introductory statement by Stony Brook professors Lawrence Alloway and Sam Hunter, Bowling reflects on the work of the artists featured in the exhibition, writing that they represent a “Black artistic endeavor” that has long resisted categorization. Brief statements by each of the artists range from articulations of their aesthetic positions to a prayer of gratitude, and reflect the artists’ diverging and nascent views on art making. As Bowling writes, “the structure of Black life has revealed, over centuries, a creative, self-perpetuating process of anarchist, pro-life zeal which a study of the fine arts and history alone … can never fully define.”
Editor’s Note: One statement in the 5+1 catalogue contains inherently homophobic language. Within the art historical context of 1969, the use of this language was likely in response to prominent critic Michael Fried, whose touchstone 1967 critique of minimalism “Art and Objecthood,” published in Artforum, includes similar language that problematically conflates aesthetic choices with sexuality. In the 5+1 catalogue, the echoing of this language is complicated by its placement within a list of art historical movements, against which the author, a young emergent Black artist, identifies “Blackness” itself as a movement—carving out space for Black artists in the historically white, heteropatriarchal art world that critics like Fried have upheld.
For additional scholarly accounts of Fried’s homophobia and its relationship to a broader history of exclusion in modernist discourses, see Christa Noel Robbins, “The Sensibility of Michael Fried,” Criticism 60, no. 4 (Fall 2018): 429–54, and Amelia Jones, “Theatricality,” in In Between Subjects: A Critical Genealogy of Queer Performance (London: Routledge, 2021), 152–60.
The homophobic language that appears in this artist statement is part of a larger history of discrimination across intersections of race, gender, and sexual identity that sometimes disparages one marginalized group in order to uplift another. Discrimination of all kinds continues today inside and beyond the art world with which the exhibitions organized at UMass Boston and Stony Brook University contend.
Read a facsimile of the 1969 exhibition catalogue (PDF, 3.2 MB)