Hauser & Wirth is delighted to present an exhibition of paintings by the late Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell. This is the first time ever that an exhibition of Mitchell’s works has been shown in London and represents a rare opportunity to see a large body of work by this preeminent artist.
Between 1960 and 1964 Joan Mitchell produced work of peculiar darkness and intensity. Painted during a difficult time in the artist’s life soon after her move from New York to Paris, the works of this period reveal a distinct shift in sensibility. In these paintings Mitchell rejected the all-over style and bright colours of her earlier compositions in favour of sombre hues and dense central masses of pigment expressive of something startling and primordial. Rhythm and vibrancy were displaced for inchoate matter. There is an astonishing physicality to these works. Paint has been flung and squeezed onto the canvases, smeared on by Mitchell’s fingers, and spilt and spluttered across their surfaces to create sculptural and tempestuous terrains that attest a vital reckoning with the world.
Mitchell referred to these works as “My black paintings – although there’s no black in them.” In fact, her palette is straight from nature, made up of earthy greens, cerulean blues, pinks and oranges that tie the paintings to the moodiness of landscape and to the work of previous painters on French soil – to the work of Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh particularly. These colours give a softness and lustre to the works, a sense of ongoing creation. Despite the darkness at the heart of many of these paintings, there is optimism to them: turbulent and delicate at once, they combine rawness with fearsome resilience.
Joan Mitchell (1925 – 1992) came to attention in the early 1950s when still in her twenties, exhibiting at the Stable Gallery in New York alongside Joseph Cornell and Robert Rauschenberg, yet it is only recently that her works have fully gained the recognition that they deserve. She travelled to France in the summer of 1955 and settled in Paris permanently after 1959 after beginning an affair with the French Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle. There have been numerous gallery and museum exhibitions of Joan Mitchell’s work including two major shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974 and 2002, which toured across the United States. Her paintings can be seen in museums worldwide.
A catalogue published by STEIDL Hauser & Wirth will accompany the exhibition. Joan Mitchell, Leaving America: New York to Paris 1958 – 1964 features twenty colour plates and a comprehensive essay on the artist by Helen Molesworth.
Joan Mitchell, Leaving America is presented in co-operation with The Joan Mitchell Foundation and Cheim & Read, New York.