Suzanne Lovell Inc

Fine Art

Women of Abstract Expressionism

November 06, 2016

Joan Mitchell in her studio, September 1956.

Photo Courtesy of Loomis Dean, Life Magazine via Women of Abstract Expressionism by Irving Sandler, pg. 27.

With Joan Mitchell as one of my “Top Ten” artists of all time, I want to share a few thoughts from a recent trip to Denver, Colorado.  I was there to see the Clyfford Still Museum and happened upon a “Women of Abstract Expressionism” exhibit that was running at the Denver Art Museum.  

Image courtesy of Suzanne Lovell Inc.

It was a small but very dense show that expanded on a 1997 show held at Baruch College, City University of New York, which featured seven women artists, curated by Joan Marter who was the Co-Organizer here as well.  With around half a dozen paintings per artist, it was an impactful display of the women working as abstract artists in the late 1940s through 1950s, the Abstract Expressionist era.

From left: Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, and Grace Hartigan at the opening of an exhibition of Frankenthaler’s paintings, New York, 1957. Photograph by Burt Glinn.

Image Courtesy of Women of Abstract Expressionism by Irving Sandler pg. 159.

Each female artist was pictured in a large format photo, both at the entry/exit and at each grouping of work by that artist.  Not usually a museum tagging tradition, but clearly here the gender was important as the familiar names tend to be those of men; Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Barnett Newman to name just a few.

Exhibition imagery: Joan Mitchell. Image courtesy of Suzanne Lovell Inc.

But let’s move on to the star of the show, whom without a doubt for me, was Joan Mitchell.  The Denver Art Museum had been able to acquire on loan from the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, Mitchell’s piece, Hudson Day Line, 1955, which I found absolutely mesmerizing! 

Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1952-53. Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Joan Mitchell, East Ninth Street, 1956. Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of William Heller.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Lee Krasner, The Seasons, 1957.

Photo Courtesy of Women of Abstract Expressionism by Joan Marter pg. 120-121.

Lee Krasner was spectacular as well with The Seasons, a piece from 1957 which I had seen in the Whitney’s wonderful opening exhibition ” America Is Hard to See”, a chronological expression of modern and contemporary works by both men and women whose works are a part of the Whitney’s collection.

Hedda Sterne, Alaska I1958. Albright  Knox Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y., Gift ofSeymour H. Knox Jr. 1958.

Image Courtesy of Women of Abstract Expressionism by Irving Sandler pg. 159.

Lee Krasner, Charred Landscape, 1960. Collection of Craig A. Ponzio.

Image courtesy of Suzanne Lovell Inc.

Grace HartiganThe Massacre, 1952

Image Courtesy of Women of Abstract Expressionism by Irving Sandler pg. 112.

Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, and Hedda Sterne certainly deserve mention as well.  A very informative show and a powerful group of women who participated right along side the men with full acceptance and respect.