The house was packed last night for the Denver Art Museum’s opening of Women Of Abstract Expressionism. The exhibit did not disappoint. It was very well received by the crowd. Many of the blue-chip gallery owners were in attendance along with most of the people whose names adorn the donor wall.
The event started with cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres. Next up were the remarks by the museum director introducing the exhibit and acknowledging the financial supporters. The exhibit curator spoke about how she was surprised to discover no other museum has ever presented this exhibit. Then the exhibit opened.
The exhibit includes paintings by twelve artist: Helen Frankenthaler, Deborah Remington, Grace Hartigan, Perle Fine, Lee Krasner, Judith Godwin, Ethel Schwabacher, Sonia Gechtoff, Joan Mitchell, Elaine de Kooning, Jay DeFeo and Mary Abbott. The works are grouped by artist in the galleries allowing you to see the progression of their style. Most of the painting are very large so only four or five paintings fit in a gallery. My favorite works were by Judith Godwin, Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan. Perry and I got to meet Judith Godwin just before she was photographed in front of one of her paintings. Many of the paintings are simply stunning. Their monumental size and color palette command attention as soon as you enter the gallery.
The artists painted in either San Francisco or New York in the 1940s and 1950s. The women in San Francisco were embraced by their male peers while the women in New York had a harder time being accepted by their male peers and faced reluctance by gallery owners to exhibit their works. The women were as talented as the men but it was a different time with different social norms.
Abstract Expressionism has been recognized as the first truly American modern art movement. Until now, it was considered a male dominated and driven movement. The women’s accomplishments have been underreported and the paintings undervalued. The DAM’s exhibit aims to shine the light on the women and give them the recognition they deserve. Recognition that is long overdue.