I studied Art History at 4 different colleges. I’m sad to report I was never introduced to the female artists of Abstract Expressionism in those settings. There was a mention of Elaine de Kooning but not an depth, contextual look at her work or any other female artist from that period. The above painting is by Helen Frankenthaler, her work is equally important to the story of art compared to the Abstract Expressionism dudes I learned about over and over. Frankenthaler invented the color stain technique of painting - applying thin washes of paint on raw canvas. Her work exemplifies a sub-group of abstract expressionism called color field paintings that emerged in the 1960s. I’m thankful to the Denver Art Museum for exhibiting the work of Frankenthaler and many other female painters in their 2016 show, “Women of Abstract Expressionism.” Even though I was never able to make to the exhibit, I’ve been able to research these artists and discover their work on my own (thanks internet!).
A lot of these female artists were exhibiting in their time, oftentimes alongside the male artists written about in the history books. It really bothers me that these incredible artists have been overlooked or undervalued in the text books and the canon of art history. The story of art is the story of us and when the authors/scholars/curators omit the contributions of anyone who is not white or male they basically suck at their job and should be replaced with people who get it.
WE 👏 NEED 👏 DIVERSE 👏 VOICES 👏 WRITING 👏 OUR 👏 HISTORY 👏 BOOKS
According to an Artsy editorial, Frankenthaler was the exception. Her “transcendent oeuvre is often the only female practice referred to in scholarship and exhibitions around action painting.” I’m happy to see these female artists being recognized and rewritten back into the history books. I’m just bummed I went so many years without appreciating these artists and their contribution to Abstract Expressionism.