|Joan Mitchell, Mandres, 1961-62|
One of my best afternoons in New York was spent gallery hopping in Chelsea in the rain. After a disappointing visit to the Mary Corse exhibition at the Whitney (view from the roof excepted), it was time to head for more reliable old favorites in the galleries. At the top of my list was the Joan Mitchell exhibition at Cheim & Read. Despite my gushing responses to Clyfford Still’s paintings in Denver, there's still room for me to claim Mitchell’s work to be Abstract Expressionism at its most challenging, and simultaneously, beautiful.
|Joan Mitchell, Slate, 1955|
|Joan Mitchell, Untitled (Blue Michigan), 1961|
Standing before Mitchell’s paintings, the viewer is invited into her world, experiencing the immense frustration and inner conflict, the tears, soft warmth of the heart, and tenderness of emotions. Even the painted surfaces shift from delicate strokes making the work appear vulnerable, to the strength of frustration and turmoil, making us wary of the maelstrom. It was curious to see how many different styles Mitchell produced, making the paintings appear to have been made in different periods of her development. Works such as Slate (1959) display assertive and relative definitiveness of line while Mandres (1961-62) is agitated and uncertain, showing a suffering that cannot be overcome. And then it would seem that the those in the back rooms with their areas of single, muted and bleeding colours such as Untitled (Blue Michigan) (1961) are from a completely different period. But not so. Mitchell is one of those rare painters from this period of American art who uses multiple different techniques and styles concomitantly.
|Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1953-54|
All images courtesy of The Artist/Cheim & Read