Throughout history, female artists have been entrepreneurs, trail blazers, and visionaries, like 19th century painter Lily Martin Spencer (Gallery 3), who was a breadwinner, balancing family and career, and Harlem Renaissance era artist Elizabeth Catlett (The F Word Exhibit), whose art critiqued race relations in the U.S. and whose activism crossed borders. In more recent years, women have led major artistic movements, incorporated innovative materials and technologies, and created entirely new styles of artistic expression.
Around the Clock with Red
Helen Frankenthaler was a groundbreaking artist and one of the few recognized women of the Abstract Expressionist movement. She departed from the textured paintings popular at the time and championed a new style created by pouring turpentine-thinned paints onto canvas. Her large, color-filled canvases influenced many other artists, including Kenneth Noland (whose painting Go can also be seen in this gallery), and helped establish the Color Field painting style, which inspired both male and female artists for decades to come.
This artwork has flashing lights.
Discussions of truth in media and manipulations of realities may feel like a recent phenomenon, but artist Jenny Holzer highlighted such debates with her Truisms series decades ago. On the forefront of fusing technology and art, Holzer employs light projections and LED screens, traditionally seen as vehicles for commercial messaging, as a means of artistic expression. As Hirshhorn Museum curator Ned Rifkin wrote, Holzer was “impatient with tradition,” and her digital innovations bypass traditional artistic spaces and media messaging with a new approach to art and meaning.
Bringing in the most innovative technologies of the 21st century, Marina Zurkow codes complex algorithms into her videos as a means of both visual and environmental expression. Zurkow’s technology-based artworks address what she calls the “wicked problems,” like invasive species, superfund sites, and petroleum interdependence, as well as the emotional impact of climate chaos and changing oceans. Her works are not only visually engaging, but they also depict the role humans play in environmental damage and can be viewed as a call to action to curb these actions.
Representing the next generation of innovation, Elizabeth Murray redefined painting by challenging the conventional rectangular canvas. Her paintings truly explode out of the 2-dimensional space using raised and layered canvases and bright colors that create dynamic energy. An example is Rollin’ Stone, where the house itself, and the figure within it, escape the flat confines of the wall and the right angles of a traditional canvas. Her pioneering work was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation in 1999, when she received a Genius Grant.
Carol Prusa embraces the centuries-old technique of silverpoint engraving, but brings it into the 21st century. She engraves onto a manufactured fiberglass sphere and adds an iPod video in the center. This combination of old with new is the mark of an innovator – someone who respects traditional methods and media while disrupting the expectations of that medium.
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