Emily Amy Gallery’s current exhibition, The Feminine in Abstract Painting, provides a look at four drastically different female artists working within the realm of abstract painting. With an exhibit like this one, the premise of femininity automatically triggers associations with the history of women artists, as well as comparisons to the predominantly masculine history of abstract painting.
Second generation Abstract Expressionist Cora Cohen commences the show with paintings composed of clay tones and occasional pops of neon color. Cohen’s work draws immediate connection to the likes of Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, but the intimacy of her paintings, which are sometimes as small as 9×12 inches, distinguishes them from the massive size of her predecessors’. While the works on their own do not evoke a particularly feminine sensibility, their pairing with the show’s title makes it difficult not to draw certain connections. Since Cohen’s work introduces the show, it provides an interesting jumping off point for the rest of the exhibit.
Artists Melanie Parke and Margie Stewart are the girlie girls of the exhibit. Parke uses punchy colors throughout her works that give them a lighthearted and flirty aesthetic. Margie Stewart is undoubtedly the most feminine of the bunch. Her abstract floral still life paintings use a Cubist technique to divide the picture plane, but her palette is a more traditional and referential one. Neither artist provides new insights into the field of abstraction, but their work nonetheless completes the task of being aesthetically pleasing and fitting the “female” bill.
Kiki Slaughter concludes the exhibition on a pointedly asexual note. Unlike her companions’ paintings, Slaughter’s work does not offer a “feminine” line quality or pigment color to clue us into her gender. Her work is painting for the sake of painting: Surfaces are built up and worn back down, and the gender of the artist is inconsequential to this process. Since the exhibit concludes on this particular note, it brings to mind New Criticism’s question: How important is peripheral information to works of art? Framing work in the context of a common tie between artists (in this case, femininity) certainly has its place, however I’m not sure these paintings benefit from that strategy.
The Feminine in Abstract Painting is on view at Emily Amy Gallery through Friday, March 19, 2010.