Women’s History Month: Hear Her Roar

Mitchell_August Rue Duguerre

Joan Mitchell, August, Rue Daguerre, 1957. Oil on canvas, 82 x 69 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1958; © Estate of Joan Mitchell

March may be coming to an end, but we are surely not ready to finish celebrating Women’s History Month just yet. Women artists have helped to propel contemporary art into the rich field it is today, so I thought it only right to dedicate this post to one of the female artists I find most fascinating from the Phillips’s permanent collection—Joan Mitchell (1925-1992).

Joan Mitchell, born in Chicago, was an essential member of the American Abstract Expressionist movement and an all around fierce character. Sitting pretty in the galleries is Joan Mitchell’s August, Rue Daguerre (1957), an energetic oil on canvas painting, which was inspired by a bustling Paris street. This work, with its rather violent brush strokes and rich colors, is representative of Joan’s work as she was inspired by lively friends (fellow artists de Kooning and Kline) and the cities she traveled between most, New York City and Paris. Having lived in a number of locations, Joan’s abstract paintings expressed her environment and her reaction to them.

I adore how in looking at this painting, one can begin to visualize what Joan was seeing both in her surroundings and how they affected her own psyche. The various shades of brown and black on the canvas could be illustrative of the statuesque Parisian architecture, but also might signify how Joan feels content and rooted in Paris. Perhaps the interspersed strokes of bright, yet subdued reds and blues express the unpredictable French citizens Joan passes daily along the winding streets. I think the magic of this emotive work and of abstract art as a whole is that it’s always up for interpretation.

August, Rue Daguerre (1957) is certainly one of my favorite paintings in the Phillips’s collection. I appreciate how Joan Mitchell was brave enough to express herself through abstract art, knowing critics and the public may never fully understand her vision… and personally, I think being brave is what being a woman is all about.

Aysia Woods, Marketing Intern

Examining Art and Activism

Anne Monahan will be giving a lecture about Faith Ringgold’s mural Die at The Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art on Thursday, September 11, at 6:30 pm.

Anne Monahan and Faith Ringgold's Die

(Left) Anne Monahan, 2014-15 Postdoctoral Fellow (Right) Faith Ringgold, Die, oil on canvas, 72 x 144 in. © Faith Ringgold

I first became interested in Faith Ringgold’s strategic marriage of art and activism in the 1960s—then an under-examined aspect of her project—while working on my dissertation. Just a couple of years ago, I was prompted to see her ambitious painting Die of 1967 with fresh eyes when a friend asked if it represented stages in a sequential narrative. That question prompted me to think more deeply about the painting’s formal and conceptual ambiguities and how they operated in the political, racial, and aesthetic discourses of its charged moment. As a result, Die and its reception figure in my book Radical/Chic: Race, Politics, and the Legacy of Social Realism in Art of the 1960s as a key example of the shifting dynamics by which racial politics influenced a politics of style.

—Anne Monahan, 2014-15 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of Modern Art / The George Washington University

O’Keeffe and Friends

Okeeffe jack in pulpit series_IV and VI

(left) Georgia O’Keeffe, Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV, 1930. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe 1987.58.3 (right) Georgia O’Keeffe, Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. VI, 1930. Oil on canvas, 36 x 18 in. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe 1987.58.5

While the National Gallery of Art‘s East Building galleries are closed for renovation, the Phillips is the (ecstatic!) temporary home to two works from Georgia O’Keeffe‘s Jack-in-the-Pulpit series. The series, a total of six canvases, was inspired by O’Keeffe’s close observations of the wildflower in the woods surrounding photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s family home in Lake George, New York. Looking at the images above without this information, what would you have thought these were paintings of? Now imagine encountering just the one on the right, Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. VI. Would you have guessed it was inspired by flora?

The loaned paintings will be on display starting this Thursday alongside other works by O’Keeffe from the Phillips’s own collection, as well as pieces from other members of the Stieglitz Circle including Arthur Dove, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, and Alvin Langdon Coburn.