Alvin D. Loving

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Alvin D. Loving Jr.
Born (1935-09-19)September 19, 1935
Detroit, MI
Died June 21, 2005(2005-06-21) (aged 69)
New York, NY
Nationality American
Education University of Michigan
Known for Painting
Movement Abstract expressionism

Alvin D. Loving Jr. (September 19, 1935 – June 21, 2005), better known as Al Loving was an African-American abstract expressionist and painter. His work is known for hard-edge abstraction, fabric constructions, and large paper collages - all exploring complicated color relationships.


Loving began his education at the University of Illinois, Champaign. The teaching consisted of formal instruction of painting and drawing. Later, he would go to graduate school at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His major mentor there was Al Mullen, who helped him get involved with the Once Group organization. This organization was made up of members such as Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. Thus, once Loving moved to New York City he was able to get in touch with other well-known artists, such as Frank Stella and Kenneth Noland, who would become major influences on his art practice. As Loving is studying and moving to New York, abstract expressionism was on its way out to be replaced by pop art, minimalism, and hard-edge abstraction.

Loving earned a BFA from the University of Illinois in 1963 and an MFA from University of Michigan in 1965.[1] Within a year of moving to New York City, he received his first solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.[2] He received National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in 1970, 1971, 1975, 1976, and 1985; and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986. Loving created large-scale commissioned public works, including a ceramic mural in one of Detroit's People Mover stations and another in the David Adamany Library at Wayne State University. In 1996, he created a collage painting for the Sacramento Convention Center, and in 2001 he completed a large mosaic wall with 70 stained-glass windows for Brooklyn's Broadway-East New York subway station.[3]

Although he never matched the success of his first show, Loving exhibited steadily throughout his life in group and solo exhibitions at numerous venues, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Studio Museum in Harlem; Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York; Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France; and PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Queens, New York. His work appears in many public collections including the Whitney, the Detroit Art Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Artistic Style[edit]

Hard-Edge Abstraction[edit]

In the 1960s, Loving grew increasingly interested in Josef Alber's paintings of squares within squares. In an interview, he explains: "For me at the time, it was about painting the square until it was 'enough,' and that meant until it obtained form. The square that I started with would always be gone; only I knew it was a square, that that reference was there. That freed me to just paint and let things evolve...[The square] was pure energy and focus.”[4] These geometric abstractions conveyed the brilliance of refracted light; they were not just experiments in color. Loving would often make polyhedrons of the same size, with different colors, and hang them together in different arrangements on the wall. The result was sometimes dozens of canvases stretching out over several feet; to view an entire composition would take time, more than just a glance, making his paintings a powerful expression of time, too.[5] This body of work was featured in Loving's first solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Some have critiqued the Whitney for caring more about Loving's race than for his art. In fact, Loving himself looks back on this body of work with at once embarrassment and also acknowledges the importance of this step as a launching off point for the rest of his career. He had to move on because he felt there was nothing expressive about the cubes.

Fabric Constructions[edit]

Inspired by a visit to the Whitney Museum's exhibition "Abstract Design in American Quilts," in the early 1970s, Loving takes his canvases off the stretcher bars and begins experimenting. He started hanging strips of canvas from the walls and ceilings, playing with our perception of pictorial and sculptural ideals. Then, he reattached the fragments together with a sewing machine, creating large flowing fabric constructions. At first he painted the pieces of canvas, but later switched to dying the fabric. This way of working was not born out of a vacuum; Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, and Richard Moch were also using the sewing machine. In fact, Loving considered himself within the context of abstract expressionism at this phase in his career; though he was not a painter but a material abstractionist.[4]

Large Paper Collages[edit]

Finally, by the 1980s, Loving had grown tired of fabric, too. So, he begins to integrated other materials into his constructions, such as corrugated cardboard and rag paper. Loving quickly took a liking to the casualness of tearing cardboard and gluing it onto other pieces; in fact, he considered this practice abstract expressionist as well. Unlike the fabric constructions, the large paper collages gave him a sense of freedom because he was trekking through uncharted territory (although this work has been likened to Frank Stella's curvilinear metal reliefs and Elizabeth Murray's shaped canvases). Loving integrated circles and spirals into these collages as a nod to his African roots and as an expression of growth and continued life. Sandra Yolles, reviewing an exhibition in 1990, explained "Loving’s work is about earth, wind, fire, and water: some pieces might be considered atmospheric maps of life at full blast—stretching the possibilities of the human spirit by delineating its directions, currents, and eddies.”[6]

Exhibition History[edit]

Solo Exhibitions[edit]


  • Alvin Loving, Gertrude Kasle Gallery, Detroit, June 15–July 7


  • Alvin Loving: Paintings, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, December 19, 1969 – January 25, 1970


  • Alvin Loving: Recent Paintings, Gertrude Kasle Gallery, Detroit, September 12–October 7


  • Alvin Loving, William Zierler, Inc., New York, March 6–27


  • Alvin Loving, William Zierler, Inc., New York, March 11–April 1


  • Alvin Loving, William Zierler, Inc., New York, March 3–31


  • Alvin Loving, Fischbach Gallery, New York, April 6–24


  • Alvin Loving, Fischbach Gallery, New York, May–June 12


  • The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York


  • Grippi/Zivian Gallery, New York


  • Al Loving: Mercer Street Series, Onyx Gallery, New York, December 18, 1984 – January 16, 1985


  • Al Loving: Departures, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, February 23–June 8


  • Al Loving, Frank H. McClung Museum, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 6–21


  • James Little and Al Loving, June Kelly Gallery, New York, June 11–July 1


  • Al Loving: Redemption Songs, June Kelly Gallery, New York, May 12–June 9


  • Al Loving: Maker of Art, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., April 10–June 15
  • Al Loving, Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, May 3–30


  • Al Loving: Material Abstraction, June Kelly Gallery, New York, November 5–December 1


  • Al Loving: Rectangular Genesis, Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, March 3–30
  • Al Loving, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, September 17–October 17


  • Alvin Loving, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, September 21–November 2


  • Al Loving in the Nineties: The Collaged Wallworks, Fine Arts Center Galleries, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, January 21–March 8


  • Al Loving: Detwiller Visiting Artist, Art Gallery, Williams Center for the Arts, Lafayette College, February 6–March 1


  • Al Loving: Color Constructs, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, September 27, 1998 – January 24, 1999


  • Al Loving: Elegant Ideas, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, April 30–June 4


  • Alvin Loving: Home, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Detroit, September 13–October 20


  • Al Loving: Bird of Birds, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Chicago, September 13–October 12


  • Formal Continuity: Works by Al Loving, The University Museum, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, February 9–March 1
  • Al Loving: Lighter Than Air, G.R. N’Namdi Gallery, Chicago, September 9–October 29

2005 Al Loving: Color Weave, Jeffrey Moose Gallery, Seattle, February 11–March 26


  • Al Loving: Affirmations of Life, Kenkeleba House, New York, December 6, 2005 – January 11, 2006


  • Al Loving: Torn Canvas, Garth Greenan Gallery, November 8—December 29


  • Al Loving, Garth Greenan Gallery, New York, May 21—June 27

Group Exhibitions[edit]


  • Afro-American Art, Detroit Institute of Arts
  • National Acrylic Show, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan


  • Afro-American Art After 1950, Brooklyn College Art Gallery, City University of New York
  • 5+1, Art Gallery, State University of New York, Stony Brook, October 16–November 8; Art Museum, Princeton University, New Jersey, November 12–23


  • Lamp Black: African-American Artists, New York and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 19–June 23
  • L’art vivant aux États-Unis, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul, France, July 16–September 30


  • Contemporary Black Artists in America, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 6–May 16
  • The Deluxe Show, Deluxe Theatre, Houston, August 15–September 12


  • 1972 Annual Exhibition: Contemporary American Painting, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, January 25–March 19


  • 1973 Biennial Exhibition: Contemporary American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, January 10–March 18


  • Image, Color, and Form: Recent Paintings by Eleven Americans, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, January 12–February 9
  • 34th Biennial of Contemporary American Painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., February 22–April 6
  • Selected Works from the Dillard Collection: An Exhibition of Works on Paper from the Weatherspoon Art Gallery, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama, April 15–May 18


  • '75, ’76, ’77: Painting, Part I, Sarah Lawrence College Art Gallery, Bronxville, New York, February 19–March 10; American Foundation for the Arts, Miami, April–May; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, June–July


  • Another Generation, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York


  • Afro-American Abstraction, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, July 1–August 30


  • Color, Material, Form: Bowling, Loving, Mohr, Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, January 9–February 14


  • Seven American Artists, Cleveland Museum of Art, January 11–February 13
  • New Work, New York: Newcastle Salutes New York, Newcastle Polytechnic Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, October 8–November 4


  • Since the Harlem Renaissance: 50 Years of Afro-American Art, Center Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, April 13, 1984 – November 1, 1985


  • Recent Acquisitions, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York


  • New York, New Venue, Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, April 10–May 31


  • The Appropriate Object: Maren Hassinger, Richard Hunt, Oliver Jackson, Alvin Loving, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, John Scott, Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, March 5–April 23


  • Legacies: African-American Artists, New Jersey Center for Visual Arts, Summit, September 16–October 27


  • The Search for Freedom: African-American Abstract Painting, 1945–1975, Kenkeleba Gallery, New York, May 19–July 14


  • An Exuberant Bounty: Prints and Drawings by African Americans, Philadelphia Museum of Art, February 5–April 16


  • Six American Masters, Sugar Hill Art Center, New York, May 17–June 27
  • No Greater Love: Abstraction, Jack Tilton/Anna Kustera Gallery, New York, September 12–October 12


  • Layers of Meaning: Collage and Abstraction in the Late 20th Century, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, February 8–April 27


  • Something to Look Forward to, Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, March 26–June 27


  • The Chemistry of Color: African-American Artists in Philadelphia, 1970–1990, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, January 11–April 10


  • Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964–1980, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, April 5–July 2
  • Full House: Views of the Whitney’s Collection at 75, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 29–September 3


  • High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967–1975, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, August 6–October 15, 2006; American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, American University, Washington, D.C., November 21, 2006 – January 21, 2007; National Academy Museum, New York, February 13–April 22


  • New Acquisitions: African-American Masters Collection, Sheldon Art Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska, December 16, 2008 – March 2, 2009


  • Target Practice: Painting Under Attack, 1949–1978, Seattle Art Museum, June 25–September 7


  • Paper Trails: Selected Works from the Collection, 1934–2001, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, July 19–November 27


  • Full Spectrum: Prints from the Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 7–November 25


  • New Acquisitions, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, February 11–June 7
  • America Is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, May 1–September 27


  • Marrakech Biennale 6, Morocco, February 24–May 8


Loving's work can be found in prominent collections in America, including the following:



  1. ^ "Al Loving (1935-2005) - Artists - Michael Rosenfeld Art". Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  2. ^ Fox, Margalit (2005-06-30). "Al Loving Dies at 69; Abstract Artist Created Vibrant Work". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  3. ^ Oliver, Myrna (2005-07-09). "Al Loving, 69; African American Abstract Artist Worked in Many Forms". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  4. ^ a b Albright Knox Gallery (1989). The Appropriate Object: Maren Hassinger, Richard Hunt, Oliver Jackson, Alvin Loving, Betye Saar, Raymond Saunders, John Scott. Buffalo: Albright Knox Gallery. 
  5. ^ Brown, Gordon (197). "Alvin Loving". Arts Magazine. 45 (5): 66–67. 
  6. ^ Yolles, Sandra (1990). "Alvin Loving". Art News. 89 (9): 164–65. 

External links[edit]