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Female Abstract Artists Are Finally Getting Their Due

Right after the Nazis took power in Germany, more and more European artists migrated to the US where they have continued disseminating modernism. Despite the dominance of figurative art, the new generations of artists many of them women, embraced abstraction. They have formed communities and organizations to support each other’s work, share ideas, and organize exhibitions.

Female abstract artists had a major role in these circles and often acted as leaders and organizers, wrote, lectured, and enhanced the methods of artmaking, especially in print media. However, except for a few such as Louise Nevelson and Lee Krasner, many of them remained underrecognized regardless of their efforts within this movement.

To tell the stories of all the relevant women active in the early stage of abstract art in America, and to indicate their rightful spot in art history, the Whitney Museum of American Art organized the exhibition Labyrinth of Forms: Women and Abstraction, 1930–1950. The show brings together works mostly drawn from the Museum’s collection.

Titled Labyrinth of Forms after Alice Trumbull Mason’s work in the exhibition, this survey tends to underline the sense of discovery that informed these women to develop a striking visual languageand propose innovative conceptual and technical solutions. It brings over thirty works by twenty-seven artists executed in a variety of media including drawings, woodcuts, sculptures, lithographs, intaglios, and collages. This survey is curated by Sarah Humphreville, Senior Curatorial, who said that “the Labyrinth of Forms is an exciting opportunity to reevaluate the history of abstraction in the United States”. She added:

“The exhibition sheds light on the vital impact artists of the 1930s and 1940s had on the evolution and reception of abstract art in this country, the integral role of drawings and prints in its development, and, of course, the essential contributions that women made.“

The exhibition Labyrinth of Forms will be on view in the Museum’s third-floor Susan and John Hess Family Gallery until March 2022. 

To bring you closer to the current show, we are spotlighting the practices of seven prolific female abstract expressionists featured.