Spiral Group


The Spiral Group was a New York–based African American artists’ collective active from 1963 to 1965. It was founded by Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff to explore the relationship of art and activism, particularly how black artists should relate to American society in a time of segregation. The group also included artists Emma Amos, Calvin Douglass, Perry Ferguson, Reginald Gammon, Felrath Hines, Alvin Hollingsworth, William Majors, Richard Mayhew, Earl Miller, Merton D. Simpson, and James Yeargans. While it espoused no common style, the group is characterized by its experimental and eclectic approaches, including forms of modernist abstraction that were neither common nor expected among African American artists at the time. A major point of contention among the group was whether artists should illustrate the black experience in figurative terms, or if black abstraction itself was a politically radical form of artistic practice. While short-lived, the Spiral Group ignited important debates about philosophy, creative integrity, and artistic freedoms among black artists—and for the cultural community’s role in social change more broadly—during a time when few art critics were asking the same questions.