Joan Mitchell Retrospective. Her Life and Paintings
The avant-gardes of the twentieth century, including Abstract Expressionist painting, were led by men, but Jackson Pollock and all the others could not stop Joan Mitchell. The legendary and now increasingly recognized artist, who emigrated to France in the 1950s, developed her own form of abstract painting in the milieu of the New York School: a poetic style between calculation and emotion, one which both seduces the senses and stimulates the intellect. With some thirty paintings, some of which are very large-format and span several panels, the show at the Museum Ludwig presents one of the most important figures in twentieth-century art.
In partnership with the Kunsthaus Bregenz and in close cooperation with the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New York, the Museum Ludwig is presenting a major retrospective of the legendary artist Joan Mitchell (b.1925 in Chicago, d. 1992 in Paris). The show focuses on her painting, ranging from early works from the 1950s to her later work during the final years of her life.
Furthermore, a large part of the exhibition is dedicated to the first extensive display of archival materials from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. With film recordings and photographs as well as correspondence, invitations, posters, and other ephemera, Joan Mitchell’s vibrant personality and her various relationships to artists, authors, and other figures from the cultural world of her time are illuminated. She maintained close contact with Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Jean-Paul Riopelle as well as Frank O’Hara and Samuel Beckett, among others.
At the very beginning of her career, Joan Mitchell participated in documenta II in Kassel in 1959. Her works are represented in the collections of the most important museums in the United States and France. However, like other female painters of her generation, to this day she has not received the same level of recognition in international exhibitions as her only slightly older male colleagues Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, or Willem de Kooning. However, young artists in particular have since discovered Joan Mitchell and her art. Along with her emancipatory attitude, this is also due not least to the particular positioning of her painting, which – like her biography – lies between the various cultural spheres of the United States and Europe. While her initial defining influences came from her homeland – born in 1925 in Chicago, she mostly lived in New York until emigrating to France in the 1950s – European art became increasingly important to her.
Like almost no other artist, she succeeded in conveying phenomena such as light, water, and plants in her atmospheric pictures and simultaneously retaining a completely autonomous abstraction. Calculation and emotion enter into a dialogue that both sensually seduces and intellectually stimulates the viewer through her deeply original style of painting in occasionally very large-format works. Especially in her late multi-panel works, visual realms open up whose accentuations of color and depth cannot be precisely fathomed and pull the viewer into the picture.
The exhibition brings together works from institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation as well as works from private collections which have never or only seldom been shown in public.
All photos: © Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Archives