Saturday, June 25, 2016

Women of Abstract Expressionism

Denver to Taos

In Taos we are asked what’s with all the Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo imagery everywhere.
The answer is simple, I merely ask in return name 10 Famous Women Artists. 
Epic failure to do so ensues.
I see a lot of lists of 10 Women Artists they range exponentially depending on the author of that list.
My 10 Taos Women Artists list would include: Agnes Martin, Marcia Oliver, Beatrice Mandleman, Ila McAfee, Gene Kloss, Adienne de la Noe, Barbara Latham, Candyce Jones Garrett, Shaun Richel, and Holly Sievers.

Women of Abstract Expressionism includes a random number of terrific artists working in the 50’s to date. The exhibit is on view through September 25, 2016, catalogues are available $45. Paperback, $65. hardcover, (splurge on the hardcover). The catalog includes many other women working in this category. The exhibition also has a terrific documentary playing in a side room, watch as much of it as you have time for, (at the time of our visit there were no copies for sale). They don’t even have a “WOMEN of Abstract Expressionism” T-Shirt, which surprised me, I’d be proud to wear one.

The exhibit is on the third floor of the DAM’s new wing, stepping off the elevator life size poster images of the women themselves greet you in the hallway. Through the doors a guard will greet and remind you that photography is allowed (no flash) and to not get too close to the paintings (even the ones behind glass).
Elaine deKooning "Bill" paintings

For me I asked which way to Elaine DeKooning, her paintings are towards the back. I spent time there looking, the lighting on the portraits of Bill 1952 & 1956 at my viewing was a bit too harsh, but there they were, such beauty. The extremely abstract “Bullfight” 1959 just opposite, the smaller beautiful jewel titled “Abstraction” 1947. Heaven on earth.
Elaine deKooning "Bullfight"

Elaine deKooning "Abstract"

I resisted to move on, not wanting to leave them, yet more masterworks awaited.
Joan Mitchell left to right "Number 12", "Untitled", "Hudson River Day Line", "East Ninth Street"

Joan Mitchell, made me gasp, Lee Krasner the richness of the ‘brown’ paintings 1960 & 1961, the magnificence of “The Seasons” 1957, and Helen Frankenthaler “Untitled” 1951 the boldness of the split level of Blue and beige with so much more.
Lee Krasner "Charred Landscape"

They worked large, Massive, Super-Sized, Horizontally, Vertically and Square. Luscious color, rich in paint, thick or thin, active or serene. 
Lee Krasner "The Seasons", "What Beast Must I Adore"

Lee Krasner "Cornucopia"

I stood and wept.
Helen Frankenthaler "Untitled" 1951

People I’d never heard of Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Mary Abbott, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Deborah Remington, Ethel Schwabacher, and where in the world did Sonia Gechtoff come from, absolutely incredible.
Judith Godwin "Martha Graham-Lamentation", "Epic"

Who, What, Where, When, Why, so many questions, what were the curator and staff thinking, what tied this group together. 
Perle Fine "Summer 1", "Image d'hiver", "Early Morning Garden", small work on paper

Then I stopped to take a break and watch a piece of the video documentary. Judith Godwin spoke eloquently about how watching Martha Graham Dancers inspired her to create motion through painting. The golden key right there before me, no wonder why I love these painters so much, they are inspired by motion.
Deborah Remington "Exodus"

"When I start I don't know what's going to happen... When you're dancing you don't stop to think: now I'll take a step... you allow it to flow." Elaine deKooning.
Helen Frankenthaler 'detail'

The other ‘thread’ I would say that ties this exhibit together is the presence of the center, perhaps a Spiritual center, perhaps a Vortex, at any rate to my eye it is there.
Joan Mitchell "Cercando un Ago"

In art school your teachers (well not all but some) may suggest working larger, to use your body as a part of your brushwork gesture/gesturally. Move the viewer’s eye around your painting through color and gesture, here it is, over and over again. Inspirational.
Jay DeFeo "Torso", "Incision", "Untitled (Everest)"

Jay DeFeo 'detail'

A couple of jewels not to be missed include the paintings of Jay DeFeo, massive, thick, textural monuments of paint. Susan Laufer I have always loved your paintings, go see these, please. The other is Sonia Gechtoff her abstractions Do Not Stand Still, they move towards you, challenge you to stand in front of them and be run over by them. Susan Rothenberg you too need to see these paintings.
Sonia Gechtoff "Children of Frejus"

I love Museum Guards that love the art they are Watching, the DAM has a great group of guards. It seemed to me women guards outnumbered male, I suspect the women guards on staff requested this, (more than likely they are artists). I tend to speak with guards and docents, after speaking with one of the guards, she had an idea of how much I was enjoying being there. She later referred a visitor to me to ask a few questions, I was happy to help.
Perle Fine "Painting No. 10"

Perle Fine 'detail'

We took a break to view other exhibits at DAM, asking a docent where to eat nearby to give a chance to gather our thoughts and return afterwards. We were directed to the excellent dining room nearby of Palettes at the Denver Art Museum.
Helen Frankenthaler "Mountain Storm"

Do we in fact need to categorize Women from Men, Native American from Anglo or Hispanic, Chinese from Polish, Under 30 to over 40, and on and on we keep separating ourselves from others. 
Personally, I don’t think so, my feeling is that great art, the cream of the crop rises to the top. In art school in the 70’s/80’s women artists were using initials rather than gender specific ‘Given Names’. I think that still goes on, and of course the very ethnic names were changed to more accepting ‘Americanized’ names, to fit in.
The fact that ANY of us actually make art is a wonderful and amazing journey, artists should be encouraged, whoever they are.
I Am An Artist.

The Denver Art Museum has been sponsoring some terrific exhibits. They deserve great recognition. To the curator of this exhibit Gwen Chanzit and her team, I congratulate and thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Terrific post, Robert. Thanks for sharing this special exhibit with us, and thanks for the wonderful photos of the art and for your thoughtful narrative.