I won’t be getting to Denver to see the exhibition Women of Abstract Expressionism, curated by Gwen F. Chanzit, and chances are I won’t be getting to Charlotte or Palm Springs to see its subsequent iterations; with luck, I just might make it to London where the show will end its tour in the summer of 2017. So I’m glad I’ve got the catalogue at least. This is a necessary show and publication — though also just a stopgap until something more comprehensive comes along. We think the canon of American art of the 1940s and ‘50s is set in stone, but we’ve got a lot of looking still to do. The exhibition itself includes works by a dozen East and West Coast artists whose work I know well (Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell), ones whose names I’ve come across periodically over the years without ever learning much about them (Sonia Gechtoff, Ethel Schwabacher), and a few who are completely new to me (Mary Abbott, Judith Godwin). The catalogue includes essays (by Joan Marter, Ellen G. Landau, Susan Landauer, and Robert Hobbs, as well as an interview with Irving Sandler and an introduction by the curator) that are in themselves excellent but only begin to cover the territory. Better still, there are images and a bit of biographical information about many more artists than those in the show, and these include some of the ones I’d be most curious about. Of course, reproductions can be misleading, but the works of Michael West (born Corinne Michelle West, 1908-1991) in particular look terrific — gutsy, physical, and yet hauntingly self-erasing. The single reproduced painting by Vivian Springford (1914-2003) makes me want to see more, too. There’s a 1941 canvas by California sculptor Claire Falkenstein that could easily have been captioned as having been painted this year by Amy Sillman — how fresh is that? And what about West Coast Asian-Americans Bernice Bing (1936-1998) and Emiko Nakano (1925-1990)? This book left me hungry for more illustrations and much more biographical data about these artists, who accomplished what they could against great odds. It left me a bit melancholy, too. Without some concerted effort today, these artists are still all too likely, for the most part, to sink back into the obscurity they fought against as hard as they could. By chance, just after reading this catalogue, I came across a letter to the editor in the London Review of Books responding to a review of a book on Grace Hartigan, one of the anointed “Women of Abstract Expressionism.” The letter writer, one David Hass of northwest London, notes that the reviewer’s rundown of women painters in New York in the 1950s omits a certain Dorothy Heller, who, according to Hass (I wonder what his source is), was once named by Clement Greenberg as “the finest woman painter in America,” adding that she exhibited with the Tibor de Nagy, Poindexter, and Betty Parsons Galleries. Heller goes unmentioned in Women of Abstract Expressionism. It seems there’s more research to be done.
Women of Abstract Expressionism, ed. by Joan Marter (2016) is published by the Denver Art Museum in association with Yale University Press and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Finally Spicing Up
In the penultimate episode, the show’s editors managed to ignite the spark of mindless reality TV.
Guggenheim Museum Union Rallies at VIP Opening
The museum’s commitment to diversity in exhibitions rings hollow to workers who say they are not receiving a fair wage.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
Quieter Artworks Stand Out At a New York Photo Fair
At this year’s Association of International Photography Art Dealers show, the best works offer glimpses into the personal lives of photographers and their subjects.
Special Edition: 🖌️Artists’ Signatures ✍️
In this special edition, we investigate what artists’ signatures actually mean, and the fascinating results reveal the multifaceted history of this curious phenomenon.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
What Is a Signature in the Internet Age?
As a cryptographic unit for record-keeping, an NFT can be seen as analogous to a signature or an autograph.
The Meaning of Ancient Greek and Roman Artisan Signatures
What did a signature mean in the ancient world, and how much can we trust what they seem to tell us?
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
Michelangelo’s Signature and the Myth of Genius
Michelangelo served as a stellar example for future artists who sought status and economic independence.
Uncovering the Photographer Behind Arshile Gorky’s Most Famous Painting
As we pursue photographer Hovhannes Avedaghayan a fascinating picture begins to emerge of him and the world of which he was part.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
100 Years of Artist Signatures in a Detroit Club
The beams in Detroit’s Scarab Club act as a guest book of sorts, carrying a wealth of stories and history, including signatures by Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, Margaret Bourke-White, Isamu Noguchi, and others.
The Myth of Agency Around Artists’ Signatures
In an art world built on shifting sands, artists’ signatures become symbols of agency for some, and relics of the past for others.
Check Thomas McCormick Gallery in Chicago for more Mary Abbot. He shows her work regularly.
Overheard at art supply store:
Artist 1: “We need more women artists!”
Artist 2: “We need more women that buy art.”
I think that most art buyers are women, but probably not of the most expensive art.
I have no stats for this.
Guessing on Etsy-type art selling platforms that most buyers are women, since most artists on Etsy are women. But then the average sale on Etsy is around $20.
Bottom line….we need more people buying more art.
Check out Abstract Expressionists – Sarai Sherman her work is amazing
Re: Dorothy Heller. Heller made art continuously from the 1940s to the 1990s. I didn’t know early enough about the Denver exhibition so that I could have brought Dorothy Heller’s works to the curator’s attention. Her husband, Joseph Grunig (now deceased) photographed and catalogued almost all the approximately 350 of her paintings (out of perhaps 500?) that remained in her Greenwich Village studio after her death in November 2003. Hundreds of works on paper remain to be catalogued. Grunig and I mounted an exhibition of 32 selected 50s and 60s abstract expressionist paintings by Dorothy Heller at the Center for Architecture gallery in NYC in November 2013. We distributed information re the exhibit to numerous museums, galleries, and the media, and advertised it in art magazines. Grunig had developed a website for her artworks: http://www.DorothyHellerArtworks.com . Admirers of her work, Walter Wickiser, and I have been trying to bring attention to and develop a market for her work; we hope that will eventually help sustain a foundation to preserve, exhibit, and ensure the place in art history her work deserves.
Comments are closed.