Georgia O"Keeffe ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO Exhibition runs until July 30th Review Published in The Arts and Letters Club LAMPSletter, June, 2017.
Alfred Stieglitz Georgia O'Keeffe with watercolor paint box, 1918 Gelatin silver print on paper 9.0 x 11.7 cm George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O'Keeffe, 1974.0052.0045, Courtesy George Eastman Museum
The Art Gallery of Ontario’s current retrospective Georgia O”Keeffe, with accompanying self titled Exhibition Catalogue produced by the Tate Modern, is a complex show that is surprisingly quiet while yielding a full range of works. These look beyond the well known, lush flower paintings into the stream of creative exercises and experiments she worked through over her lifetime. There are 136 works to take in and one visit hardly suffices. Oils, watercolours and drawings (and one early sculpture) cover work from her NYC skyscrapers, to flower paintings, buildings and abstractions, as well as skull and pelvic bone paintings with nature studies and landscapes from Lake George and New Mexico. Interspersed among the paintings are photographs by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Arnold Newman, and Alfred Stieglitz; who all knew O’Keeffe and contextualize her work and life.
Of particular note are some powerful images of O’Keeffe by Stieglitz. Their overlapping intimate and creative relationship is revealing and adds to wrapping the exhibition in the charisma of the artist. And she has plenty to offer. Stieglitz produced close to 350 photos of the artist. Iconic images like Georgia O’Keeffe, 1920, and Portrait of Georgia, No, 1, 1923 included in this show, are raw, beautiful images that acknowledge her strength as woman and artist. No doubt his photography reinforced O’Keeffe’s mythical persona then as they do now, but they also and importantly reinforce an often active subject, focusing on her hands and acts of doing as in O’Keeffe at work in Georgia O’Keeffe with watercolor paint box, 1918.
Other exceptional photographs in the exhibition are those by Ansel Adams that depict O’Keeffe and nature, and remind us of their shared American motifs of land, sky and architecture. Adam’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941 and Georgia O’Keeffe in the Southwest, 1937 illuminate the interconnectedness of these artists to each other and a national visual identity. She obviously found something Americans responded to because already in 1927 a journalist declared “ O’Keeffe is America’s”. For the next 6 decades she consistently constructed interconnected personal and national narratives while remaining committed to the formal, self-reflexive principles of painting that fed the American Modernist movement.
When she began visiting New Mexico’s dessert region in the late 20’s O’Keeffe said“ When I got to New Mexico that was mine. As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly.” She carried the white dessert bones back to NYC until 1949 when she moved permanently to the Southwest. From her window was the view of the Chama River and valley with the Cerro Pedernal (flint hill) in the distance. Her enclosed patio and its buildings inspired several of the soft-edged geometric coloured surfaces that form Black Door with Red and My Last Door of the 1950’s. Still tied to the immediate experience of her surroundings, the combined bone and landscape paintings like Pelvis 1, 1944, optimize the maturity of O’Keeffe’s later abstract minimalism and her contribution to America’s Modernists.
Exhibition runs until July 30th
Published in The Arts and Letters Club LAMPSletter, June, 2017.
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