Sunday, November 13, 2016

Women of Abstract Expressionism

I recently treated myself to the big, beautiful book Women of Abstract Expressionism, published by Yale University Press to accompany the exhibition organized by the Denver Art Museum

Grace Hartigan, The King is Dead, 1950, oil on canvas, 65 x 96 1/2 inches

The show is currently being staged at the Mint Museum in Charlotte until January 22, 2017, when it moves on to the Palm Springs Art Museum, February 18 - May 29, 2017. The exhibition focuses on the large-scale paintings of 12 artists, including Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell.

Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea, 1952, oil and charcoal on canvas, 86 5/8 in x 117 1/2 in.

The book is one of those big, juicy coffee-table style volumes. It has more than 40 one-page biographies of women painters who were active in the 40's, 50's and beyond. As well, it includes six essays about the women: their contributions to this art movement and their struggles to find their place as post-war American artists, practicing what was seen to be a very machismo style of art. A chronology illuminates the major events of their careers.

Joan Mitchell, Number 12, 1953-54, oil on canvas, 79 5/8 x 73 5/8 in.

A quote from page 17:

"By 1962, Clement Greenberg had this to say about the movement, then more than a decade old: 'If the label Abstract Expressionism means anything, it means painterliness: loose, rapid handling, or the look of it; masses that blotted and fused instead of shapes that stayed distinct; large and conspicuous rhythms; broken color, uneven saturations or densities of paint, exhibited brush, knife or finger marks.'
"Not only are canvases by Abstract Expressionist women compatible with this definition, they express compelling points of view by individuals who were individual in every sense. This exhibition celebrates their contributions to the rich fabric of the movement. At a time when opportunities for women were often limited, these artists went beyond customary gender roles. Their authentic expressions belong front and center in the annals of Abstract Expressionism." 

Alma Thomas, Red Abstraction, 1960, oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 30 in.

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