Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction @ MOMA

Big Black, by one of my favourite artists of the period,
Louise Nevelson. Painted wood, 1963

The first day of my recent visit to New York was a rainy one. The Museum of Modern Art was very busy and my experience was constrained by the wet crowds.

This show was one I was determined to see, as it was due to close on August 13. It is one of the many current shows in New York and beyond that focus on the work of women artists. The postwar period is seen as a difficult one for women artists because of a retrenchment of gender roles. As well, abstract expressionism was seen as a particularly "muscular" style and women were not readily admitted into its inner circle, in New York or elsewhere.

An example of "gestural abstraction", Ladybug by Joan Mitchell, oil on canvas, 1957

From one of the wall panels:
"In the postwar climate, the Abstract Expressionists' fervent gestures came to signify the artists' existential struggles and, particularly in the case of large-scale paintings, their grand ambitions and bravado. A masculine mystique that attached itself to the movement essentially trivialized or excluded the work of women artists. Few commercial galleries would show women's art, and even when they did, those women struggled to have their work considered outside the lens of the feminine. Efforts to recover and reconsider these artists' works are still ongoing sixty years later."

Untitled, Alma Woodsey Thomas, 1968

A 6-minute video gives an introduction to the show, including commentary on several pieces made of fibre:

The museum's website has a comprehensive description of the show here, including images of the featured works, audio commentary and more videos.

No comments: