Women Artists and Abstraction

This installation complements the Museum’s special exhibition Helen Frankenthaler Prints: Seven Types of Ambiguity (June 29–October 20). Women Artists and Abstraction features works on paper and photographs by women artists who contributed to the development of abstraction as a visual language from the postwar era to the present.

Photographs by Lotte Jacobi, Barbara Morgan, and Naomi Savage exemplify the artists’ shared interest in process experimentation and image manipulation. Jacobi’s Photogenics were produced by moving lights and torches over light-sensitive paper. Fueled by her passion for modern dance, Morgan used a similar process to capture the essence of ephemeral movements.

Experimentation with form and color is the driving force behind the tautly composed gouaches of Judith Rothschild, the rhythmic etching by Sonia Delaunay, and Alice Baber’s layered ink drawing, the latter made in response to the artist’s travel to Brazil. By contrast, monochromatic works by Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Agnes Martin, and Eve Aschheim focus on form using simple geometrical lines that draw attention to the picture plane.

Howardena Pindell’s conceptual collage employs ordinary hole punches—normally associated with office work and schools—which she then inscribed with numbers, shapes, and arrows to create “very small points of color and light” without having to rely on paintbrushes. Conversely, the delicate lines of poured ink in Dorothea Tanning’s lithograph and the energetic strokes in Susan Rothenberg’s etchings communicate a strong gestural language.

An equally complex exploration of gender identity informs Miriam Schapiro’s small watercolors as well as a more recent etching by Mona Hatoum. Schapiro used ovoid and anthropomorphic shapes—suggestive of fertility and creativity, as well as of growth and metamorphosis—to forge a female iconography. In her recent etching, Hatoum instead drew on a minimalist aesthetic to depict coiling tendrils of human hair, a specifically feminine material prominently featured in her work.

Annabelle Priestley, Curatorial Assistant

  • Untitled Composition
    Judith Rothschild, American, 1921–1993
    Untitled Composition, ca. 1945
    2002-216
  • Untitled
    Judith Rothschild, American, 1921–1993
    Untitled, ca. 1946
    2002-217
  • Untitled
    Sonia Delaunay, French, born in Ukraine, 1885–1979
    Untitled, ca. 1965
    x1981-109
  • Untitled
    Miriam Schapiro, American, 1923–2015
    Untitled, 1959
    x1976-344
  • Type Trays
    Naomi Savage, American, 1927–2005
    Type Trays, 1979
    1997-433
  • Six Inches Four Ways
    Sylvia Plimack Mangold, American, born 1938 | Printed at A. Colish Press, Inc.
    Six Inches Four Ways, 1976
    2006-137.8
  • On a Clear Day #20 and #14
    Agnes Martin, American, 1912–2004 | Printed by Luitpold Domberger at Domberger KG, Stuttgart, Germany | Published by Parasol Press, Ltd.
    On a Clear Day #20 and #14, 1973
    2006-295 a-b
  • Untitled #3
    Howardena Doreen Pindell, American, born 1943
    Untitled #3, 1975
    2015-6688
  • Hair and There
    Mona Hatoum, Palestinian, born 1952
    Hair and There, 2004
    2012-110
  • Untitled (Neck) From the series "Figure Landscape"
    Joy Moody
    Untitled (Neck) From the series "Figure Landscape", 2000
    2001-7
  • Untitled (Landscape)
    Rose Mandel, American, 1910–2002
    Untitled (Landscape), 1964
    2002-260
  • Untitled (May #2)
    Susan Rothenberg, American, born 1945 | Printed by Gretchen Gelb and Peter Drake at Aeropress | Published by Parasol Press, Ltd.
    Untitled (May #2), 1979
    2004-445