Cheim & Read presents Joan Mitchell: Paintings from the Middle of the Last Century, 1953–1962. This is the ninth exhibition of Mitchell’s work presented by the gallery. It is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue with a text by David Anfam, co-curator of Abstract Expressionism, the acclaimed 2016 exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.
In the spring of 1953, at the age of 28, Mitchell was given her first solo show at Eleanor Ward’s legendary Stable Gallery, and that summer she began to paint outdoors after renting a cottage on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. Two years later, she decamped to Paris for the summer, where she met the abstract painter Jean-Paul Riopelle. She soon began to divide her time between Paris and New York, where she had a studio on St. Mark’s Place. In 1959, she found a studio in the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris and thereafter painted only in France. Over the next several years she was given her first solo exhibition in Europe, at the Galerie Neufville in Paris, followed by one at the Galleria dell’Ariete in Milan. She also collaborated with John Ashbery, creating five silkscreens for his book, The Poems, and her work was included in an important survey at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In 1961 she was honored with her first survey exhibition, Joan Mitchell: Paintings, 1951–61, at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and in the same year the Museum of Modern Art, New York, purchased her painting, Ladybug (1957).
During this time, as her work grew exponentially in sophistication and strength, she also deepened her engagement with nature, but with a crucial distinction from her male counterparts in the Abstract Expressionist movement. As the late curator and writer, Klaus Kertess, wrote in the monograph, Joan Mitchell (Abrams, 1997): “Pollock’s […] ‘I am nature’ is very different from Mitchell’s being with nature in memory. Pollock is more a shaman, Mitchell more a lover. But both share with van Gogh a high tuned, visceral sensitivity to movement. And both share the quality that [Frank] O’Hara so aptly attributed to Pollock’s paintings: ‘lyrical desperation.’”
Joan Mitchell was born in 1925 in Chicago, and spent half her life in France, where she died in 1992. In 1951, her work was exhibited alongside that of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Hans Hoffman in the celebrated Ninth Street Show, which marked the ascendancy of Abstract Expressionism within the development of modern art. Mitchell has since been the subject of numerous museum exhibitions, and examples of her work hang in nearly every major public collection of modern art, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Osaka City Art Museum of Modern Art, Japan; the Samsung Museum, Seoul; and the Tate Gallery, London. Mitchell’s work will be the subject of an upcoming retrospective organized by Katy Siegel and Sarah Roberts. The exhibition is due to open at the Baltimore Museum of Art in April 2020, travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in September 2020 and head to the Guggenheim Museum in New York in February 2021.