Joan Mitchell Retrospective: Her Life and Paintings

Press Release from Kunsthaus Bregenz

Together with the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and in cooperation with the Joan Mitchell Foundation in New York, Kunsthaus Bregenz will be presenting a large-scale survey exhibition, in 2015, of the legendary artist Joan Mitchell (1925–1992). The show’s focus is on her painting – ranging from the early work of the 1950s to the late work of her last years. In terms of art history, her œuvre will be located within developments subsequent to Abstract Expressionism, that is the milieu of the New York School. Comprising nearly thirty pictures, including many largeformat, multi-part works, the show at Kunsthaus Bregenz will be a presentation of one of 20th century art’s most significant protagonists.

Whilst she experienced her first formative influences in her American homeland – born in Chicago in 1925 and living mostly in New York until her move to France in the 1950s – European art became increasingly important to her. Perhaps more than any other female artist, she succeeded in transcribing such natural phenomena as light, water, and plants into atmospherically charged paintings, whilst simultaneously maintaining a totally autonomous abstraction. In her deeply distinctive pictorial language, and sometimes very large-scale formats, the rational and emotional enter into a dialogue, both sensually seducing and intellectually stimulating viewers. Above all in her late multi-part works, pictorial spaces open up, whose accentuation of depth and color evade unequivocal apprehension whilst virtually drawing the viewer into the image.

The exhibition unites works from museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, as well as the Joan Mitchell Foundation with works from private collections which have, to date, rarely or never been publicly shown.

In addition, a large part of the exhibition will be dedicated to the first public presentation of archival materials from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. With the aid of film and photographic records, correspondence, invitation cards, as well as posters and other ephemera, light will be shed on Joan Mitchell’s colorful personality and her multifaceted relationships to visual artists, writers, and other cultural figures. She maintained close contact with, for example, Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Jean-Paul Riopelle, as well as with Frank O’Hara and Samuel Beckett.

Already in 1959, at the beginning of her career, Joan Mitchell was taking part in documenta II in Kassel, and her work is represented in the collections of the most important museums in the USA and France. Nevertheless she has not, until today, received as much attention in the international exhibition world as her only slightly older, Page 3 | 6 male, fellow painters Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning, a fate she shared with other women painters of her generation. In the meantime however, not only the art market – one of her early works was recently sold as the most expensive work ever by a woman artist – but also and above all a young generation of artists have rediscovered Joan Mitchell and her art. This has not least been due to her emancipated behavior, but also to the unique positioning of her painting, located – just as her biography is – between the differing cultural worlds of the USA and Europe.

Kunsthaus Bregenz is publishing a catalogue including texts by Yilmaz Dziewior, Suzanne Hudson, and Ken Okiishi, together with a conversation between Isabelle Graw and Jutta Koether.


Additional Materials from Kunsthaus Bregenz

Exhibition Views
All below photos by Markus Tretter. © Courtesy of the Joan Mitchell Foundation and Kunsthaus Bregenz. High resolution photos and more exhibition materials available at the Kunsthaus Bregenz website here

Exhibition invitation booklet

link to Kunsthaus Bregenz