Alma Thomas, Ruth Kainen's Amaryllis, 1976

Women and Abstraction: 1741–Now

Jan. 28, 2023 to
Jul. 31, 2023
Comprised solely of works from the collection by women artists, this exhibition explores how female makers have deployed the language of abstraction to create works across a wide variety of media (including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramics, textiles) from the 18th century to the present day.

In a recent article bemoaning the glaring absence of female-identifying artists in exhibitions and critical texts exploring on the development and efflorescence of abstraction in America, the journalist Max Lunn notes that, “the exclusion matters because it is a lie. Women weren’t working on the peripheries, they were driving the movement forward, energetically engaging in this radical pictorial language.” Women and Abstraction, 1741–Now endeavors to complicate the faulty yet widespread conception of abstraction as the domain of overwhelmingly white, male 20th-century painters like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline. Comprised solely of works by women artists, this exhibition will explore how female makers have deployed the language of abstraction to create works across a wide variety of media (including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramics, textiles) from the 18th century to the present day.

Drawn almost entirely from the permanent collection of the Addison Gallery of American Art, this show, while not comprehensive, will present a diverse range of works by artists both widely known, lesser known, and completely unknown. A crucial component of this exhibition will be the decolonization of narratives surrounding the concept of abstraction through the inclusion of significant works by Indigenous women artists from the collection of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology at Phillips Academy. A diverse group of objects including baskets, ceramics, beadwork, and textiles, made by both named and unidentified Indigenous makers will be fully incorporated within the exhibition, offering insight into each maker’s culturally specific engagement with the core, universal formal characteristics of abstraction—color, line, form, shape, and texture. Through surprising juxtapositions that will connect seemingly disparate objects in ways that transcend medium and time, this exhibition aims to both destabilize ingrained notions of what abstraction is and is not while proposing an expanded and more nuanced understanding of American abstraction.

Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the Mollie Bennett Lupe and Garland M. Lasater Exhibition Fund and the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.