NOVEMBER 14, 1999-MAY 28, 2000
THE NATURE OF ABSTRACTION: JOAN MITCHELL PAINTINGS, DRAWINGS, AND PRINTS
Joan Mitchell (1926-1992) was one of the most significant painters associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement that marked American art at mid-century. Emerging in the 1950s as a strong voice in a movement with few female proponents, Mitchell quickly made an impact with her bold, gestural paintings inspired by the natural world. Drawn in part from the Walker's permanent collection and from a range of private collections, this exhibition presents nearly 40 of the artist's works, ranging from abstract paintings and pastels of the 1950s and 1960s to large-scale lithographs and multipaneled canvases made late in her life.
Though her paintings are abstract meditations on light, color, rhythm, and space, Mitchell devoted her artistic life to the subject of landscape, choosing sunflowers, trees, and wild grasses along a riverbank as favorite themes. An inventive colorist, she frequently left portions of her canvases bare, allowing white to serve as an expressive element. Her works were often executed in large scale on multiple panels, each possessing its own character, but always integral to the others.
Steeped in literature and the arts as a youth, Mitchell moved to New York in 1950, where she soon became ensconced in the Greenwich Village art scene, associating with fellow painters Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Philip Guston, as well as poets Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, and others. In her work, she was as inspired by early modernists such as Cézanne and Van Gogh as she was by her peers of the New York School, developing a unique style of nonrepresentational painting that she remained dedicated to throughout her 40-year career.
From 1968 until her death, Mitchell lived and worked in France, in her adopted home of Vétheuil, a small town near Paris where the painter Claude Monet had resided. Though she observed the same natural surroundings as the French artist, Mitchell adamantly denied being influenced by his work. She seldom painted in the open air, preferring to execute her views of nature in her studio, from what she called "a mind's-eye view," creating her abstract landscapes more from emotional remembrances than from visual cues.
This exhibition, anchored by a selection of the artist's major paintings, presents the breadth of her work, from charcoal and pastel drawings to prints and illustrated books. Within these rigorously abstract notations on paper and canvas, it is possible to observe her stylistic shift from frenzied marks of the 1950s to her distilled colors and bold strokes of the early 1990s.
FREE THURSDAY FILM
JOAN MITCHELL, PORTRAIT OF AN ABSTRACT PAINTER
THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 7 PM
An elegant documentary blending interviews with this fascinating and complex woman and images of her art. Mitchell muses about her life and work in a way that is sophisticated yet accessible. 1992, U.S., 58 minutes.
SUNDAY FUN WORKSHOP
SUNDAY, MARCH 12, 1-2:30 PM
Learn about landscape prints in the exhibition The Nature of Abstraction: Joan Mitchell Paintings, Drawings, and Prints. Create your own colorful patterns and designs using a variety of printmaking techniques. Led by Carla McGrath.
FREE FIRST SATURDAY
FAMILY TOUR: HEAR ALL ABOUT IT
SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 2 PM
Visit the exhibition The Nature of Abstraction: Joan Mitchell Paintings, Drawings, and Prints and learn about her colorful, energetic landscapes. Meet in the lobby.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2 PM
Join a Walker tour guide for a public tour of the exhibition.
OPENING-DAY TALK WITH
THE NATURE OF ABSTRACTION: JOAN MITCHELL PAINTINGS, DRAWINGS, AND PRINTS IS MADE POSSIBLE BY GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM JOANNE AND PHILIP VON BLON.