Women of Abstract Expressionism
This exhibition presents the work of twelve American women artists active in New York City and the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1940s and 1950s. As part of a circle of painters known as Abstract Expressionists, they helped forge the first fully American modern art movement. Though women actively participated alongside men in the studios, clubs, and exhibitions, textbook accounts of the movement tell the story through the work of a handful of male artists. In fact, the image of the paint-splattered, heroic male artist has come to characterize the movement as a whole.
This is the first major museum exhibition to address the contribution of women to Abstract Expressionism. Until recently, their involvement has been underreported and their canvases undervalued. Yet their authentic expressions belong front and center in the accounts of Abstract Expressionism.
More than fifty major paintings will be on view by artists Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Elaine de Kooning, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher.
Abstract Expressionist paintings are expressions of self. While there is no one prescribed style, Abstract Expressionist canvases are known for loose brushwork, all-over composition, an emphasis on surface rather than depth, and a grand sense of scale. Artists experimented with process and materials to free themselves from previous conventions. While individual expression is key, several themes recur in works by the women artists seen in this exhibition. These include responses to place, the seasons, time of day, meaningful events, and literature, dance, or music. These paintings are almost always quite abstract, even when referencing something real. The true subject is never the thing, but the painterly expression itself.
A fully illustrated color catalogue accompanies the exhibition and can be purchased at the Museum Store, Palm Springs Art Museum.
Women of Abstract Expressionism is organized by the Denver Art Museum. It is generously funded by Merle Chambers; Henry Luce Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; the Ponzio Family; Harmes C. Fishback Foundation Trust; Dedalus Foundation; Joan Mitchell Foundation; Helen Frankenthaler Foundation; the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign; and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The Palm Springs Art Museum presentation is funded in part by Arlene Schnitzer and Jordan Schnitzer, the Contemporary Art Council, and the Erik E. and Edith H. Bergstrom Foundation, with additional support from John P. Monahan.
Exhibition Season Sponsors: Carol & Jim Egan, David Kaplan & Glenn Ostergaard, Dorothy C. Meyerman, Marion & Bob Rosenthal, and the Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Charitable Foundation. The Desert Sun is the exhibition media sponsor.
Elaine DeKooning, Bullfight, 1959, oil paint on canvas, Denver Art Museum: Vance H. Kirkland Acquisition Fund, 2012.300. © Estate of Elaine de Kooning