Women and Abstraction at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum

An exhibition of paintings by women contemporary artists will be on view April 18 – August 2 and showcases stories of abstraction often underrepresented in galleries.

During the 20th century, American women artists experimented with abstraction. Perhaps the most well-known American woman painter is Georgia O'Keeffe, who is represented in the permanent collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.

O'Keeffe's abstract tendencies resulted in dynamic representations of the physical landscape and flowers. Another often cited story of women artists engaged in abstraction comes later in the twentieth century when painters such as Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler engaged with large scale abstraction informed by abstract expressionism and color field painting.

Alma Thomas, Untitled, 1968, Acrylic on paper, 12 x 17 inches, Collection of Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis Alma Thomas, Untitled, 1968, Acrylic on paper, 12 x 17 inches, Collection of Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis

This exhibition looks not only at 20th-century examples, but also demonstrates the role of abstraction in contemporary art. In fact, the relationship between women artists and abstraction was a major theme to emerge from the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

Although by no means exhaustive, this exhibition seeks to examine the legacy of women artists and abstraction and to understand a fuller, more dynamic story of modern and contemporary art. “The exhibition highlights works from our collection yet casts a wider net, weaving a larger narrative made possible by several important loans. In keeping with our teaching mission, it hopes to make us rethink some prevailing notions in the story of American abstraction,” says Ena Heller, the Bruce A. Beal Director of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.

The facts about the presentation of works by women at major museums are grim. Just five percent of the works presented in modern and contemporary art galleries and at most major museums in the United States were created by women. Despite the fact that women represent over 50 percent of the population of artists, male artists have more gallery representation and their work sells at greater value points. In particular, stories of abstraction have been dominated by larger than life male artists-particularly in the case of abstract expressionism and minimalism.To diversify understanding about American art, this exhibition aims to shed light on the contribution of women artists to abstraction from the post-war period to the present.

Through representing women artists together, Women and Abstraction aims not to limit the ways we read the included artists by gender, but attempts to heighten our understanding of the abstract tendencies in American art and to present a broad historical survey highlighting the historical continuum of abstraction and its ongoing innovation.

Thematic groupings highlighting formal relationships and influences such as architecture and the natural environment provide a mapping for the exhibition. Moreover, while works by major artists ground the exhibition, this project also highlights artists who have not received proper attention.

Rosemarie Castoro, Green Blue Orange Y, 1965, Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 84 inches, The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College © Rosemarie Castoro, Courtesy of the artist and Broadway 1602 Rosemarie Castoro, Green Blue Orange Y, 1965, Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 84 inches, The Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College © Rosemarie Castoro, Courtesy of the artist and Broadway 1602

The list of artists in the exhibition includes: Mary Abbott, Ruth Asawa, Alma Thomas, Amy Sillman, Louise Nevelson, Elaine DeKooning, Barbara Kasten, Howardena Pindell, Lee Bontecou, Rosemarie Castoro, Mary Heilmann, Hayal Pozanti, Carmen Herrera, Lee Krasner, Doris Leeper, Jane Manus, Nava Lubelski, Julie Mehretu, Joan Mitchell, Sarah Morris, Louise Nevelson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Shinique Smith, Ellen Garvens, Dana Hargrove, Pat Steir, Jessica McCambly, and Barbara Sorensen.

This exhibition is curated by Cornell Fine Arts Museum Curator Amy Galpin and will be accompanied by a publication. Rollins students under the direction of Rollins Assistant Professor of Art MacKenzie Moon Ryan will participate in the realization of this exhibition and the accompanying educational programming.

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College is the only teaching museum in the greater Orlando area. The Museum's encyclopedic collection, recognized as one of the largest and most distinguished collections in Florida, includes more than 5,000 objects ranging from antiquity through contemporary eras.

Visitor Information

Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College
1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789
407-646-2526
rollins.edu/cfam

Museum hours:
Tuesday  –  Friday: 10 a.m. –  4 p.m
Saturday – Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays, major holidays, and during installation periods