Posts Tagged ‘abstractism’

Washington DC — By Jon Rochetti on January 25, 2010 at 5:26 am
Filed under: abstractism, Art, Attractions, best of week, featuredarticle, O'Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe Abstracts at The Phillips in DC

American painter Georgia O’Keeffe developed an abstract voice unlike that of any of her contemporaries and changed American abstract art.  As a pioneer in a new and radical style of abstract painting, she used large-scale flowers and abstract landscapes to express her personal emotions with flowing forms, lines and colors.

A new exhibit, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction opening on the 6th of February at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC presents over 100 of Georgia O’Keefe’s painting, drawings and watercolors.  The exhibition covers six decades of her work starting in 1915 as well as a dozen photographic portraits of O’Keeffe taken by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

The exhibit will show O’Keeffe’s evolving style throughout her career from non-representational abstract to her iconic paintings of New Mexico landscapes, colorful depictions of flowers painted as if viewed close up, and her world-recognized paintings of weathered ram skulls.   Regardless of subject matter, abstraction was always at the foundation of O’Keeffe’s works. 

1994_54, 2/2/09, 10:28 AM,  8C, 5992x7762 (7+156), 100%, chrome 7 stops,  1/15 s, R38.0, G15.6, B28.2 O’Keeffe is an important painter in American art history, as she was one of the few American artists to be working in an abstract style of painting and drawing  starting as early as 1915, a time when there were no guidelines or rules fo rabstraction painters.    For most of  her first decade as a painter, O’Keeffe’s art was very abstract, yet hinted of recognizable forms, such as mountains, waterfalls, clouds and storms, and waves.

At that time, some critics incorrectly interpreted her work as being an expression of her femininity or sexuality, which caused O’Keeffe to shift her style to include painting more recognizable depictions.  But her works never abandon an obvious feminine overtone. 

Her subject matter shifted to include more representational paintings of nature, still lifes and later, the bluffs and vistas of O’Keeffe’s beloved New Mexico.  O’Keefe stated once, “All the earth colors of the painter’s palette are out there in the many miles of badlands…”, expressing her love for the New Mexico landscape.

At the age of 21, thinking she could not be successful if she was forced to work within the traditional realism styles and boundaries of the time, she stopped making art.  But within four years, her interest was rekindled. After taking additional art classes as well as meeting several artists who showed her she could move outside of accepted norms and be successful, she transitioned from a hobbist to a dedicated professional artist.

With her newly renewed interest,  O’Keeffe taught art at several colleges and worked on her style for several more years.  Her big break came after O’Keeffe sent a few of her charcoal drawings to a former classmate, who showed them to Alfred Stieglitz, an internationally recognized New York photographer, art promoter and avant-garde gallery owner in early 1916.

Gworgia O'Keefe photo by Alfred Stieglitz - Art Institute ChicagoStieglitz showcased her works at an art show several months later and offered to underwrite her work for one year if she moved to New York.  Three years later, during which time the two had fallen in love, a Stieglitz photo exhibit included 45 of his photos of O’Keeffe. Several of the images in the exhibit featured O’Keeffe in the nude, and resulted in additional media and public attention for both artists.

For the next 22 years, Stieglitz showcased O’Keeffe’s works in an annual show in rented rooms at prestigious Park Avenue gallery, The Anderson Galleries in Manhattan. 

During her life, she struggled with how others perceived her work and Stieglitz helped to shape the artist’s reputation, adn the abstract art movement in America, by featuring her more recent works that were more commercially acceptable by artistic standards and avoided the obvious (to some) sexual overtones.

By the 1940s, by this time as established and preeminent American abstract artist, O’Keeffe returned to her roots, again exploring some of the abstract shapes she initially used to develop her personal style.  Her popularity was reborn as the art-buying tastes of the public had changed.  She also influenced a new generation of abstract artists, no longer encumbered by the old rules or standards.

President Gerald Ford presented O’Keeffe with the Medal of Freedom in 1977, five years after she lost most of her eye site and completed her last unassisted painting at the age of 85.

Stump n Red Hills, 1940, Georgia O'Keefe

Much of her abstract works have been mostly overlooked by the public and art critics in favor of her representational subjects, and this exhibit is a window into her early roots that defined the artist’s ultimate and iconic style.

During her life, O’Keeffe, often called the Gray Lady of New Mexico, created over 2,000 pieces of work.  At the time of her death in 1986, she owned more than half of them, of which about 100 are on display in her museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s early works are a prominent and influential collection from a defining period of American abstract art, freed from the shackles of rules accepted in the early 20th century which reveal a very different side to the famous American artist we all thought we knew.

Director of The Phillips Collection Dorothy Kosinski stated, “It is a long overdue acknowledgement of her place as one of America’s first abstract artists and furthers our shared commitment to advancing a more complete understanding of the history of American abstraction.”

This exhibit is an inside look at the evolution of a classic American abstractionist through this major collection of O’Keeffe’s works.

Additonal Georgia O’Keeffe paingintg are on display in several of ther Washington, DC museums, including the Hirshorn Museum, The National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction
The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC  (map it)

Dates & Times – Exhibit dates – February 6 – May 9, 2010.  Museum hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday until 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

Tickets – Adults – $12.00, Seniors 62+ and students – $10.00. Tickets available online through Ticketmaster or by phone at 202-397-SEAT.

Nearest Metro Subway Station – Dupont Circle – Red line, then a 3-block walk, or use the DC Circulator bus.

Parking – Limited metered street parking and area paid garage parking is available.

Images – top O’Keefe painting – courtesy of The Phillips Collection, O’Keefe photo and Stumps in Red Hills (bottom) – Flickr

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