Departs Edinburgh in May for a month in Europe, travelling by train through the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, en route to Italy. His tour of Italy includes stops in Milan, Genoa, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo, Florence, Rome, and Positano.
Receives, in absentia, his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In order to continue taking advantage of the GI Bill, he enrolls in a month-long, nonacademic seminar on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British art, music, and literature at the University of London. Paints several portraits of his friends, including two of the poet David Phillips.
When the funding from the GI Bill ends and his fellowship runs out, he borrows money from the U.S. Embassy in London to return home. He sails in steerage to New York aboard a ship of the Italia line.
Arrives in New York in early October without funds to continue to Chicago. Through Nicholas de Sailly, a dance student who modeled at the Art Institute of Chicago, he finds a room for $7 a week in the Floral Studios, a residency hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. He finds a part-time job selling art supplies at E. H. & A. C. Friedrichs Company for $20 a week and works there for the next three years. Among the artists who shop at the store are James Rosenquist and Charles Hinman, then studying at the Art Students League across the street.
Continues writing poetry and works periodically with John Hoppe’s Mobilux kinetic-light “spectaculars,” which are broadcast on NBC-TV.
Sublets the 63rd Street loft of the dancer Paul Sanasardo, who is away on tour for the summer. Inspired by Dubuffet, Clark begins work on a series of expressionistic portraits of friends, including Sanasardo and de Sailly.
In September, rents a studio at 61 Fourth Avenue in Greenwich Village, the center of Abstract Expressionism.
Sees a performance of The Mother of Us All, the opera composed by Virgil Thomson in 1947, with a libretto by Gertrude Stein, at the Phoenix Theater in New York. Conducted by Thomson and produced by Lincoln Kirstein, the opera celebrates the suffragist Susan B. Anthony.
Meets Ellsworth Kelly. In June, on Kelly’s recommendation, moves into a cold-water loft on the top floor of 31 Coenties Slip. Located on the East River south of Wall Street, the space previously belonged to Fred Mitchell, a friend of Kelly’s from Paris, who was leaving New York for a teaching job at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Soon after, Kelly moves into a loft at 3–5 Coenties Slip, just around the corner from his original loft at 109 Broad Street.
Cy Twombly rents space in Clark's Coenties Slip loft to complete a series of larger canvases for his upcoming show at the Stable Gallery in January 1957. When finished, he leaves four canvases behind, covering their still-wet surfaces with newspaper. Clark, who cannot afford canvas of his own at this time, uses two of the four as the supports for his own abstract, collaged paintings
That December, Jack Youngerman, his wife, the French actress Delphine Seyrig, and their young son Duncan, arrive in New York from Paris and move to 27 Coenties Slip on Kelly’s recommendation. Over the next several years, the large lofts and cheap rents in the area attract many artists, including Agnes Martin, Lenore Tawney, William S. and Ann Wilson, James Rosenquist, Charles Hinman, Chryssa, Alvin Dickstein, Steven and Barbara Durkee, and Édgar Negret.