When the Denver Art Museum announced its Women of Abstract Expressionism exhibition last year it made a big splash. ARTnews, Hyperallergic, and the New York Times published articles about it and created a nice bit of social media buzz. (“It’s about time!” went the theme.) Interestingly, I haven’t heard much about it since then, but did finally make it to the show which opened in June this past Saturday. It is interesting, both lovely and eyebrow raising. Women of Abstract Expressionism presents a number of terrific paintings by women artists whose work deserves to be seen, but the show has an uneven quality that raises uncomfortable questions about art and sexism. If you are a painter it is a must see.
This piece by Sonia Gechtoff is one of my favorites of the show.
Gechtoff is one of handful of “Bay Area artists” featured in Women of Abstract Expressionism.
Another Bay Area painting, this one by Deborah Remington.
The Bay Area paintings in general have an earthiness and material consciousness that make them exciting. Their physical separation from the New York paintings in Women of Expressionism – the show unfolds across several spaces – creates cohesion and offers a counterpoint to better known works by Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell.
Joan Mitchell’s paintings, arguably the highlight of the show, looked wholly original, sensitively done and fresh to my eye.
But Elaine de Kooning’s paintings – at least the ones selected for this exhibition – are so similar in gesture and palette to husband Willem de Kooning’s work . . . well, it was hard not to judge them comparatively.