Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1964, Oil on canvas, 274,3 x 201,9 cm, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York, Photo: Günter König

Joan Mitchell
Retrospective. Her Life and Paintings

Novem­ber 14, 2015 – Fe­bruary 21, 2016

Open­ing: Fri­day, Novem­ber 13, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

The avant-gardes of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, in­clud­ing Ab­s­tract Ex­pres­sion­ist paint­ing, were led by men, but Jack­son Pol­lock and all the others could not stop Joan Mitchell. The le­g­endary and now in­creas­ing­ly rec­og­nized artist, who emi­grat­ed to France in the 1950s, de­vel­oped her own form of ab­s­tract paint­ing in the mi­lieu of the New York School: a po­et­ic style be­tween cal­cu­la­tion and emo­tion, one which both se­duces the sens­es and sti­m­u­lates the in­tel­lect. With some thir­ty paint­ings, some of which are very large-for­mat and span sev­er­al pan­els, the show at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig pre­sents one of the most im­por­tant fig­ures in twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry art.

In part­n­er­ship with the Kun­sthaus Bre­genz and in close co­op­er­a­tion with the Joan Mitchell Foun­da­tion in New York, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is pre­sent­ing a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive of the le­g­endary artist Joan Mitchell (b.1925 in Chica­go, d. 1992 in Paris). The show fo­cus­es on her paint­ing, rang­ing from ear­ly works from the 1950s to her lat­er work dur­ing the fi­nal years of her life.

Fur­ther­more, a large part of the ex­hi­bi­tion is ded­i­cat­ed to the first ex­ten­sive dis­play of archi­val ma­te­rials from the Joan Mitchell Foun­da­tion. With film re­cord­ings and pho­to­graphs as well as cor­re­spon­dence, in­vi­ta­tions, posters, and other ephe­mera, Joan Mitchell’s vi­brant per­so­n­al­i­ty and her vari­ous re­la­tion­ships to artists, au­thors, and other fig­ures from the cul­tu­r­al world of her time are il­lu­mi­nat­ed. She main­tained close con­tact with Elaine de Koon­ing, Franz Kline, and Jean-Paul Ri­opelle as well as Frank O’Hara and Sa­muel Beck­ett, among others.

At the very be­gin­n­ing of her ca­reer, Joan Mitchell par­ti­ci­pat­ed in doc­u­men­ta II in Kas­sel in 1959. Her works are rep­re­sent­ed in the col­lec­tions of the most im­por­tant mu­se­ums in the Unit­ed States and France. How­ev­er, like other fe­male pain­ters of her gen­er­a­tion, to this day she has not re­ceived the same lev­el of recog­ni­tion in in­ter­na­tio­n­al ex­hi­bi­tions as her on­ly slight­ly old­er male col­leagues Jack­son Pol­lock, Franz Kline, or Willem de Koon­ing. How­ev­er, young artists in par­tic­u­lar have since dis­cov­ered Joan Mitchell and her art. Along with her eman­ci­pa­to­ry at­ti­tude, this is al­so due not least to the par­tic­u­lar po­si­tion­ing of her paint­ing, which – like her bi­og­ra­phy – lies be­tween the vari­ous cul­tu­r­al spheres of the Unit­ed States and Eu­rope. While her ini­tial defin­ing in­flu­ences came from her home­land – born in 1925 in Chica­go, she most­ly lived in New York un­til emi­grat­ing to France in the 1950s – Eu­ro­pean art be­came in­creas­ing­ly im­por­tant to her.

Like al­most no other artist, she suc­ceed­ed in con­vey­ing pheno­m­e­na such as light, wa­ter, and plants in her at­mo­spher­ic pic­tures and si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly re­tain­ing a com­plete­ly autono­mous ab­s­trac­tion. Cal­cu­la­tion and emo­tion en­ter in­to a dia­logue that both sen­su­al­ly se­duces and in­tel­lec­tu­al­ly sti­m­u­lates the view­er through her dee­p­ly orig­i­nal style of paint­ing in oc­ca­sio­n­al­ly very large-for­mat works. Es­pe­cial­ly in her late mul­ti-pan­el works, vi­su­al realms open up whose ac­cen­tu­a­tions of col­or and depth can­not be pre­cise­ly fath­omed and pull the view­er in­to the pic­ture.

The ex­hi­bi­tion brings to­gether works from in­sti­tu­tions such as the Mu­se­um of Mod­ern Art in New York, the Cen­tre Pompi­dou in Paris, and the Joan Mitchell Foun­da­tion as well as works from pri­vate col­lec­tions which have nev­er or on­ly sel­dom been shown in public.

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