A native of New Orleans, Edward Clark grew up in Chicago, attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on a GI Bill scholarship, which also supported study in Paris in the early 1950s. As with so many of his expatriate peers, Paris played a crucial role in the transformation of Clark’s work. In addition to being a refuge from the general discrimination Clark experienced in the United States, the city also provided a respite from the expectation that African American artists paint in a realist mode. Throughout the 1950s, Clark’s brushstrokes grew bolder and looser, conceived by the artist as bearers of “energy and speed.” Following five years in Paris, Clark moved to New York City, where in late 1957 he exhibited a work often acknowledged as the first shaped painting. Few of these paintings survive, but examples can be found of Clark’s innovation: collaged elements breaking the traditional rectangular limits of the canvas, carrying the dynamism of his brushstrokes into the spaces beyond.