Georgia O’Keeffe - A Retrospective at Bank Austria Kunstforum
I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.
An unparalleled retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe, one oft he founders of American modernism, is on display in the Bank Austria Kunstforum until March 26, 2017.
30 years after her death and 100 years after her debut exhibition, the Kunstforum shows pictures from seven decades oft he famous painter’s work. Her paintings are mostly in U.S. collections, this largest retrospective outside the US has been organized by the Bank Austria Kunstforum in cooperation with Tate Modern and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. The show had more than 340.000 visitors in the Tate Modern.
There are 85 works by O’Keeffe and another 60 photographs, by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand Ansel Adam or Edward Weston on display, providing an extensive overview on O'Keeffes oeuvre.
At the beginning of the exhibition there are her early charcoal drawings like Special nº9 and Early nº2, demonstrating her sensibility for abstract form and expression. Georgia O’Keeffe studied at the Art Institute of Chocago and the Art Students League in New York. In the beginnings of her artistic development the influence of Kandinsky is still visible.
The emblematic Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow (1932) is shown as well, another example of the topics often interpreted as feminine iconography or psychoanalytical symbolism by art critics, an interpretation rejected by O’Keeffe in her lifetime. Her art transcends any symbolism, proving itself as a original and personal mode of expression, not to be categorized in art movements. There is consenus however, that she was a forerunner of genuinely American genres like Pop Art, Minimalism or Color Field Painting.
The are oil paintings and night sceneries of New York’s skyscrapers like New York Street with Moon (1925), and a room dedicated to her relationship with Stieglitz, with nudes and hand studies of her, made by her husband, sponsor and promoter Alfred Stieglitz.
The angles and cut outs in her flower pictures of the 1920ies and 30ies, reminding of photographs, unite abstraction and photographic gaze, her photographer friends like Paul Strand and Edward Weston worked with plants as well, which had a certain influence on her art.
This influence of contemporary photography is also manifest in Calla Lily in Tall Glass -nº2 and the Close-up of Oriental Poppies, from 1927.
Among the exhibited paintings in the Kunstforum there is also Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932), the painting of a female artist sold for the highest price ever at an auction (44,5 Mio. Dollar).
From the 1930ies on, O’Keeffe, who was born on Wisconsin, started to live in the state of New Mexico with its desert landscapes that marked her figurative and abstract late work. No more flowers but Bones, skulls and rocks became her topics. This was the period where she painted the wide open spaces of the landscape and the skulls and bones that -together with the flowers- would become the signature subjects of her as a painter.
They also became the subject of symbolic interpretations by art critics, in this case as metaphors for dispair and death, although in this case the aesthetic appeal of the surrounding desert was most probably her motivation, as well as the traditional adobe buildings or the animal bones found in the nature.
Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico y Red and Yellow Cliffs (1940) bear witness to her increasing immersion into this unique geography of the southwestern territory of the US, and Taos Pueblo 1929/34 shows her interest for the indigineous culture.
One of the key exhibits of the show are the earth colored oil paintings O’Keeffe made of the place she called „Black Place“, nearby Santa Fe, where she died in 1986, aged 98. She kept working until losing her eyesight in the early 1970ies. (written by Cem Angeli)