“I had associated Abstract Expressionism with the USA, I was enlightened by the inclusion of works from Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.”
Gordon Seabright visits the Whitechapel Gallery’s major exhibition of 150 paintings from an overlooked generation of 81 international women artists across the globe.
The slow process of recognising the contribution of women artists continues with an excellent and eye-opening exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. Action, Gesture. Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70 covers a lot of ground, and is perhaps too overwhelming with its sheer volume of content, although it’s hard to see what could have been omitted. Over 80 women artists are represented, and although I had associated Abstract Expressionism with the USA, I was enlightened by the inclusion of works from Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.
Some of the artists are already well known – if still under-appreciated – such as Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler. But the most interesting works are from private collections – notably the Christian Levett Collection – and the works of less familiar names. It doesn’t make for relaxing viewing, rather thought-provoking and energetic with angry and argumentative statements across canvases everywhere you look. But given the long history of these artists struggling for the attention they highly deserve, perhaps that’s the point.
The exhibition runs until 7th May and is worth the visit.
L-R: Janet Sobel, (1893, Ukraine – 1968 USA), Untitled, c.1948, mixed media on canvas board;
Lee Krasner (1908, USA – 1984, USA) Bald Eagle, 1955, oil, paper and canvas collage on linen;
Helen Frankenthaler, Vessel, 1961, Oil on unsized, unprimed canvas