Joan Mitchell: A Painter at Her Peak
A new exhibition shows the artist going deeper into the blues, greens and yellows of the French countryside, and into the act of painting itself.
The painter Joan Mitchell, who died in 1992 at the age of 67, saved the best for last. In this regard, she was a lot like Philip Guston, who abandoned Abstract Expressionism for a lush yet acerbic figurative style during the last 13 years of his life. In contrast, Mitchell stayed with Abstract Expressionism, but never stood still. She started young, when she was ambitious but barely any good. Her four-decade career is distinguished by fairly steady forward motion, during which she gave Abstract Expressionism a lyricism, spareness and light that werent quite natural to it.
The exuberant selection of late works at David Zwirner in Manhattan traces a short span of this progress. The 19 canvases dating from 1979 to 1985 range in size from substantial (four panels across) to small amenable to most living-room walls. Almost all are united in color, with blues, greens, yellows and oranges dominating most works. And occasional pinks, as in the opening salvo of Chez Ma Soeur (My Sisters House), from 1981, a painting in four panels where the central two blaze with the light of yellow over pink.
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