Art Focus Lecture | Joan Mitchell: Painting as Cathedral
Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) came of age as an artist in the 1950s New York of the Cedar Tavern and the Artists’ Club. The physicality of her mark making—her commitment to abstraction, and her love of oil paint itself, not to mention her toughness—identify Mitchell as a New York School artist. Yet she spent more years in France than New York. While she continued down the path laid out by Abstract Expressionism, her work kept evolving and was, in the end, unclassifiable. Mitchell’s mature art addresses memories of her feeling for particular places at particular moments. It shuttles between European pastoralism and New York swagger. It balances planning and surrender. Ultimately, it swings open a window to something beyond everyday awareness, transubstantiating pigment into light and turning painting, as she put it, into “cathedral.”
Patricia Albers is the author of Joan Mitchell, Lady Painter: A Life, the first biography of the abstract painter. Her previous book was Shadows, Fire, Snow: The Life of Tina Modotti. Her essays, art reviews, and features have appeared in museum catalogs and publications including the New York Times and San Jose Mercury News. She teaches at San Jose State University.
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