Belated recognition of women in America's modern art movement

Belated recognition of women in America's modern art movement
This week we focus on a very important exhibition that should ideally have been written about earlier. Titled Women of Abstract Expressionism, the exhibition opened on June 12th at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) and will be on till September 25. It features the works of 12 American female artists who practiced Abstract Expressionism in the 1940s and 50s and is probably the very first full-scale Museum exhibition of works of these talented artists —one might call it a belated recognition of their unique contribution to the American modern art movement. The exhibition curated by Gwen Chanzit, curator of Modern Art at the DAM, offers visitors 51 splendid artworks to give viewers the opportunity to admire and take note of their distinctly varied styles. The exhibition will move to the Charlotte Mint Museum in October and to the Palm Springs Art Museum in February 2017.

The exhibition also offers scholars a chance to view the difference in styles of those based in the Bay Area of the West Coast where female artists were on a more equal footing with male artists than those working in say New York on the East Coast. The DAM officials clearly state that, “Few women have found their way into the accounts of art history, and not until the 20th century have they received some of the credit that is long overdue.” The females artists represented include Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington and Ethel Schwabacher.

Talented painter Lee Krasner, widely known to have lived in husband Jackson Pollock’s shadow, is well represented through seven works. Charred Landscape (1960) highlights the turbulence of her life style and state of mind. Elaine de Kooning, wife of celebrated abstract painter Willem de Kooning, is clearly a skilled abstract painter as shown in her monumental canvas Bullfight (1959). The artwork reflects the energy and excitement of bullfights the artist witnessed in Mexico.

Another exhibition coming up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, features the work of German artist, Max Beckmann, who belongs approximately to the same vintage as the artists in the earlier exhibition. Titled Max Beckmann in New York, the exhibition features 14 paintings that the artist had painted during his stay at New York between 1920 and 1948. Also on show will be other earlier works borrowed from private collections in New York. Visitors will enjoy some the artist’s iconic works including his colourful portraits of men and women. The exhibition is scheduled to open on October 19 and will be on till February 20, 2017.

Beckmann had come to New York hoping for a teaching assignment in the US. Arriving in 1947, the skyscrapers of Manhattan made a huge impression on him. After a course in Boulder Colorado, Beckmann moved permanently to New York in 1949 and took up a teaching position at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. New York suited Beckmann, who had always preferred big cities with museums, cosmopolitan hotels, bars, cinema and the vast expanses of Central Park, was a perfect mix for the painter. Beckmann He died of a heart attack on December 27, 1950, while on the way to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Having written about American female artists, we now take a quick look at another exhibition in Delhi featuring the work of eight Indian female painters, currently on show at Art Junction. The exhibition includes the work of the talented young artist Dhara Mehrotra, known for her installations. Her earlier exhibitions have shown how she uses dried flowers and dragonflies to create 3-dimensional works - where nothing is still and the slightest gust of wind make the flowers and the paper dragonflies dance. Rhapsody is a beautiful creation of a large circular concave bowl painted with gulmohar petals. The exhibition is on till September 25.

(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)

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