Evening Rendezvous

Media - 1994.32 - SAAM-1994.32_1 - 52003
Copied Norman Lewis, Evening Rendezvous, 1962, oil on linen, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1994.32

Artwork Details

Title
Evening Rendezvous
Artist
Date
1962
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
50 1464 14 in. (127.7163.3 cm.)
Credit Line
Museum purchase
Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on linen
Classifications
Keywords
  • Abstract
Object Number
1994.32

Artwork Description

Lewis often asserted that art was not a tool for solving society’s problems, but Evening Rendezvous is a deeply political painting. The abstract dabs of white emerging from a gray twilight are hooded Klansmen, gathered around a bonfire suggested by the hot reds at the center of the image. Angular white shapes in the foreground describe men closest to the headlights of their cars, while those at the top are obscured by blue smoke. The combination of red, white, and blue mocks the patriotism that the Klan claimed as its defense.


African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012

Gallery Label

Lewis came of age in the politically charged atmosphere of the 1930s, but in the postwar years, he often asserted that art could not solve society's problems. Still, Evening Rendezvous is a deeply political painting. The abstract dabs of white emerging from a gray twilight are hooded Klansmen, gathered around a bonfire suggested by the hot reds at the center of the image. Angular white shapes evoke the men closest to the headlights of their cars, while at the top of the canvas, others are obscured by blue smoke. The combination of red, white, and blue mocks the patriotism that the Klan claimed in its defense.

Most New York art critics in the 1950s and 1960s insisted that painting could be about nothing except painting. Any artist who argued otherwise risked bad press and lost sales. This climate might have led Lewis to proclaim that his art was meant solely to express "man's creative endeavors." Evening Rendezvous veered close to the forbidden territory of figural painting, and more importantly, it brought the turmoil of the civil rights movement into the gallery. But it is still enough of an abstract painting to suggest that Lewis veiled his subject in an acceptable language.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Exhibitions

Media - 1995.22.1 - SAAM-1995.22.1_1 - 65784
African American Art in the 20th Century
January 18, 2019January 18, 2019
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the most significant collections of African American art in the world. Highlights from this collection are traveling to several cities across the United States in the exhibition African American Art in the 20th Century.