Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Joan Mitchell: Sunflowers

"...I paint with a real interest again-it's so wonderful-I had forgotten-no I'm not happy or anything so sudden but just while I stand there putting paint on, life is maybe wonderful & beautiful after all..."
Joan Mitchell
Letter to Barney Rosset

Joan Mitchell, Sans Pierre, 1969, oil on canvas, 105 5/8 x 79 7/8 iches. Collection of Robert Lehrman, Washington, D.C.
It was one of those beautiful, sunny, but cold winter days. The day started out like any other, rushing to the train and begging to some divine force to make the train go faster, get out of the train and walk against the freezing wind towards the west side. Little did I know that Judi was running later than I was. It was Tuesday and the galleries were open, so why not have a look at what's going on?

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1968-69, oil on canvas, 76 3/4 x 51 1/8 inches
It was the usual business walking down 25th street, go in here, check out this here, the same galleries with the same expected work hanging. Walking closer towards 11th ave I realized Cheim & Read was coming up so I decided to make it my last stop before heading back to Judi's studio.

Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1969, oil on canvas, 63 3/4 x 51 1/8 inches
As I read the sign on the thick concrete blocks "Cheim & Read" I open the large heavy frosted glass doors hoping to see something good. The moment was like opening the gates of heaven, my first peek was a large Joan Mitchell painting, Sans Pierre, hanging tall and proud in the first room of the gallery. My heart skipped a beat and as I look to my right at the larger gallery room I see even bigger paintings by Mitchell waiting to be looked at and explored.
Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers, 1990-91, oil on canvas diptych, 110 1/4 x 157 1/2 inches
Her marks are like no one else; they are strong, bold, energetic colorful, almost frantic. Mitchell painted from a place deep inside that needed to be unleashed and it didn't matter much if it was understood or not. She let herself out with a great amount of confidence only found in artists like Pollock and De Kooning.
Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers, 1990-91, oil on canvas diptych, 110 1/4 x 157 1/2 inches, Private Collection
It is remarkable that as the years go by her work remains fresh and intense. Just like El Greco and Van Gogh she was ahead of her time, her daring paintings are almost a race between her hand and time in the effort "to convey the feeling of the dying sunflower."
Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers, 1990-91, oil on canvas triptych, 24 x 59 1/2, Private Collection
Joan Mitchell: Sunflowers will run through December 20, 2008 at Cheim & Read.
Joan Mitchell, Two Sunflowers, 1980, oil on canvas diptych, 110 x 142 inches, Private Collection

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