Mitchell, Benglis, Wilke

May 19, 2014 - October 26, 2014


Joan Mitchell Sunflower VI_x500

Joan Mitchell’s Sunflower VI, painted in 1969 exemplifies her work of this period with its explosion of gold, deep purple and blue hues. These play against a luminous white background, referencing the landscape surrounding Mitchell’s Vétheuil studio. Mitchell said, “I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me. I want to make something like the feeling of a dying sunflower.” Fiercely independent, Mitchell resisted stylistic trends and continued to evolve as a painter, while exclusively staying true to the painted gesture throughout her career. In this way, she forged the path for artists such as Lynda Benglis (American b. 1941) and Hannah Wilke (American, 1940-1993) who both began careers in New York in the mid to late 60s when Abstract Expressionism had given way to Minimalism.

Lynda Benglis, Bounce, 1969. Hannah Wilke, Ponder-r-rosa #1, 1974._x345

Created the same year as Sunflower VI, Benglis’s Bounce consists of a biomorphically shaped plane of swirling multi-colored latex, poured in liquid form directly on the floor and allowed to congeal. A frozen yet malleable gestural abstraction, this work exists between painting and sculpture.

Hannah Wilke, Ponder-r-rosa #1, 1974._x345

Wilke’s Ponder-r-rosa 1, 1974, is similarly constructed of sheets of poured latex that were then folded and snapped together to create nine abstracted floral forms that hang in a diamond-shaped grid on the wall.

These three artists approach abstraction from different angles and with varying ends: Mitchell’s Sunflower is a monumental example of pure painterly abstraction in traditional materials of oil on canvas; thumbing her nose at her Minimalist contemporaries, Benglis used the newest industrial materials of the day to revive the very Abstract Expressionist style that her peers sought to negate; with its uncannily pliable, flesh-like material, Wilke’s work strives to make gesture come alive, reconciling it with the body that created it.