HENRY "MIKE" BANNARN (1910 - 1965) City Lights, NY.
Oil on linen canvas, circa 1957. 762x1218 mm; 30x48 inches. Signed in oil, lower left.
Provenance: estate of the artist; private collection, New York (2017).
This dynamic, mid-century painting is a very scarce example of abstraction by Henry Bannarn. Around 1949, after concluding his military service in South Carolina, Bannarn returned to New York. He began his shift from social realism to modernism in his practice soon after. Bannarn was close to Charles Alston and Norman Lewis in New York from their time together during the Harlem Renaissance and the 306 - a group of Harlem writers and artists who met in the studios of Bannarn and Alston founded in 1935. Bannarn appears particularly influenced by Norman Lewis's nocturnal painting of New York, including Lewis's City Night, 1949, collection of MoMA, New York. Bannarn's interest in abstraction is also seen in the painting Modernist Exhibition, 1957, private collection, which had been on view recently at the Birmingham Museum of Art - it depicts a black woman viewing a modernist art exhibit of abstract painting and sculpture in a gallery space. Sadly, in his midcareer period, Henry "Mike" Bannarn contracted cancer and passed away in his home in 1965.