LOS ANGELES, CA.- Manny Silverman Gallery
is again presenting an exhibition of the work of internationally celebrated artist Joan Mitchell. The exhibition includes approximately 20 works on canvas and paper spanning her career from the early 1950s through the mid 1980s.
An important figure in the American Abstract Expressionist movement, Mitchell considered herself a landscape painter, although she did not paint directly from nature and none of her images are readable as direct landscapes. She said she painted from memory and sought to capture the feelings evoked by a particular view. Her goal was to transform her strong physical and emotional responses toward natural phenomena into canvases of enormous energy, light and color. Like no other Abstract Expressionist painter, Mitchell was a master of color. The light emanated from within her canvases, reflected from the brilliant primer beneath the oil. Mitchell titled her paintings after completion. They had personal meaning to her, echoing moods and thoughts. Sometimes, close friends, poets, dogs are commemorated. Rarely, however, do titles reflect the source of inspiration, unless they refer specifically to natural subjects such as flowers, trees, fields or water.
Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1925. The daughter of James Herbert and Marion Strobel Mitchell, Joan grew up in a house with a rich appreciation of literature. She studied at Smith College, Massachusetts, The Art Institute of Chicago, and at Columbia University, New York. She received her BFA from the Art Institute in 1947 and was awarded a traveling fellowship which enabled her to visit France, Italy and Spain between 1948 and 49. By the early 1950s, she settled in New York and began painting abstract compositions based on her response to landscape. She soon became accepted as a promising member of the downtown art scene and one of the few women to be admitted to membership in the influential Artists Club. In 1951 she participated in the legendary Ninth Street Show organized by the Club and then budding art dealer, Leo Castelli. Mitchell quickly gained recognition and exhibited regularly throughout the decade.
In 1955, Mitchell moved to France to join Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, with whom she had a long, rich, and tumultuous relationship until 1979. After the death of her mother in 1967, Mitchell inherited enough money to buy a two-acre estate above the town of Vétheuil, a little town on the Seine river that is best known for the residence of another artist, Claude Monet. She lived there permanently until her death.
During the period between 1960 and 1964, Mitchell moved away from the all-over style and bright colors of her earlier compositions, instead using sombre hues and dense central masses of color to express something inchoate and primordial. The marks on these works are extraordinary, the paint flung and squeezed on to the canvases, spilling and spluttering across their surfaces and smeared on with the artist's fingers. Her work continued through many developments until her death in 1992.
In her later years, despite a hip operation that hindered her mobility, Mitchell often worked on large scale canvases or multi panel works of expansive gesture and unrestrained use of luminous color. The titles of her last paintings suggest the abstract valleys and fields of the French countryside that she adored.
Throughout her career, Mitchell seemed to rise to the celebrated stature of the generation that succeeded; Pollock, Rothko and Kline. She was most definitely the only woman of her generation to garner the respect of curators and the marketplace alike. Since her first solo exhibition in 1950, there have been only 4 exhibitions of her work in Los Angeles, one of which was held at the Manny Silverman Gallery in 1988 and none since then.
Among the major retrospective exhibitions of Mitchells work were those at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1974 and 2002), the Musee dArt Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1982) and in 1988 a touring exhibition that went to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and elsewhere.