John E. Dowell, Jr Sam Gilliam Felrath Hines Gordon Parks Lorna Simpson Richard Hunt Romare Bearden John Woodrow Wilson Robert Colescott Adrian Piper Renée Stout Eldzier Cortor Richard Mayhew Carl Pope
African American Art Text Graphic

Felrath Hines

Four Square, 1982

Four Square is a superb example of Hines’s monumental color field painting. Early in his career, Hines was inspired by the geometry of Cubism and the simplicity of Piet Mondrian and the De stijl movement. As Hines became more influenced by American modernists—such as Stuart Davis, Ad Reinhardt, Josef Albers, Elsworth Kelly, and Barnett Newman—he began to eliminate line from his compositions, focusing instead on simple shapes and a restrained color palette. In Four Square Hines utilized slight asymmetry and subtle tonal variations to create the optical effect of a pyramidal form moving forward in space. Hines’s interest in the science of color may have been influenced by his professional career as a painting conservator.

Born in Indianapolis, Hines was active in the Civil Rights movement and participated in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, March on Washington on August 28, 1963. Hines joined a club of sixteen African American artists called the Spiral Group, which was formed by Romare Bearden in 1963. It was around this time that Hines became labeled as a “black” artist, an epithet that he neither expected nor liked. While not opposed to participating in exhibitions of African American artists, Hines wanted his imagery to remain universal and not to be seen as having relevance exclusively to black social causes or to African Americans. As a result, in 1971 he refused to participate in the Whitney Museum of Art’s exhibition Contemporary Black Artists in America.

By focusing on nonrepresentational subject matter and harmoniously balanced shapes and colors, Hines hoped to create works that held a conceptual meaning. As he remarked, “an artist’s work is to rearrange everyday phenomena so as to enlarge our perception of who we are and what goes on about us.” Hines intended his imagery to be absorbed visually, mentally, and spiritually by all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, or race. There is a peacefulness and optimism in his luminous, tranquil works, which belie the period’s social turmoil.

Romare Bearden, The Family

Felrath Hines
American, 1913-1993
Four Square, 1982
Oil on canvas
h. 66 x w. 69" (167.7 x 175.2 cm)
Museum purchase with funds from the bequest of
Dorothy M. Major, IU Art Museum 97.4
Art © Felrath Hines

Other Works:


Romare Bearden
Robert Colescott
John E. Dowell, Jr
Sam Gilliam
Felrath Hines
Richard Hunt
Gordon Parks
Adrian Piper
Lorna Simpson
John Woodrow Wilson
Renée Stout
Eldzier Cortor
Richard Mayhew
Carl Pope