Gallery Reboot: Collection Galleries Closed December 17–28

From Monday, December 17, through Friday, December 28, NMWA’s third-floor galleries will be closed to the public for a major reinstallation of art from the collection. The special exhibition Rodarte will be open, as well as Ambreen Butt—Mark My Words, and Full Bleed: A Decade of Photobooks and Photo Zines by Women in the Library and Research Center.

The museum’s collection contains more than 5,000 works of art spanning from the late sixteenth century through today. The reinstallation will continue to emphasize connections between historical and contemporary art, and will be organized around five themes: family, homelands and migration, rebellion, the built environment, enclosures, and nature.

Preview several pieces to look forward to, and visit after December 28 to experience these works—and more—in person:

Kimsooja, The Earth, 1984; Thread, Ink, and Acrylic on Cloth, 75.5 x 117 cm.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Courtesy of Kimsooja Studio; © Soo Ja Kim; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Kimsooja, The Earth, 1984; Thread, Ink, and Acrylic on Cloth, 75.5 x 117 cm.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Courtesy of Kimsooja Studio; © Soo Ja Kim; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Helen Frankenthaler, Spiritualist, 1973; Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 x 1 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2012 Estate of Helen Frankenthaler / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Helen Frankenthaler, Spiritualist, 1973; Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 x 1 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2012 Estate of Helen Frankenthaler / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Indian, Indio, Indigenous,

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Indian, Indio, Indigenous, 1992; Oil and collage on canvas, 60 x 100 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase: Members' Acquisition Fund; © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Indian, Indio, Indigenous,

Elizabeth Adela Armstrong Forbes, Will-O'-the-Wisp, ca. 1900; Oil on canvas, 27 x 44 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Gallery Reboot – December 2018

Alison Saar, Mirror Mirror: Mulatta Seeking Inner Negress II, 2014; Woodcut on chind colle, 40 1/2 x 23 1/3 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, Dean Emerita of Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore; © Alison Saar; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Kimsooja, The Earth, 1984

This large textile collage comprises cloth that Kimsooja gathered from family members, stitched into loose geometric forms, and embellished with thick embroidery and paint. For the artist, sewing transcends ordinary, feminine associations, becoming a conduit for metaphysical experience.

Helen Frankenthaler, Spiritualist, 1973

Part of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Frankenthaler created paintings like Spiritualist by pouring thinned pigment onto an unstretched canvas spread on her studio floor. The paint soaked into the raw fibers of the untreated canvas, staining the fabric. She let her colors flow freely into shapes, manipulating them only minimally with her brush or fingers.

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Indian, Indio, Indigenous, 1992

Quick-to-See Smith describes this richly layered painting as a “narrative landscape.” The artist collaged an array of materials to comment on the historical desecration of American Indian lands, as well as continued injustices to native peoples and their culture.

Elizabeth Adela Stanhope Forbes, Will-o’-the-Wisp, 1900

Based on The Fairies by Irish poet William Allingham, Will-o’-the-Wisp depicts the story of Bridget, who was stolen by the “wee folk” and brought into the mountains. Forbes set the narrative in a moody autumnal landscape rendered with precise natural detail. The oak frame imitating the painted tree limbs incorporates lines from Allingham’s poem.

Alison Saar, Mirror, Mirror: Mulatta Seeking Inner Negress II, 2014

Through powerful forms and narrative detail, Saar explores identity, gender, and history. In Mirror, Mirror a light-skinned figure contemplates her dark reflection. Positioning the figure’s back to viewers, the artist denies access to the woman’s face except as a reflection.

From the Collection: Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler, Spiritualist, 1973, Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 in., Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

When visiting NMWA’s third floor collection galleries, don’t miss Helen Frankenthaler’s painting Spiritualist, 1973. The color-soaked canvas promises an overwhelming sensual experience of pinks and oranges. Flat space inundated with salmon pink both discombobulates and transports the viewer into an otherworldly realm. As a primary example of Frankenthaler’s soak-stain technique, it characterizes the genius of this Abstract Expressionist painter.

Born in 1928 in New York, Frankenthaler benefited early on from an education and social life that emphasized the arts. She earned her BA from Vermont’s Bennington College, known for its active studio art faculty. In the 1950s, her relationship with noted art critic Clement Greenberg allowed her access to the stars of the New York art world, including luminaries such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Her contact with these Abstract Expressionists would inspire her own freewheeling use of non-representational color and line.

It was in 1952 that Frankenthaler made the choices that revolutionized her work and reverberated across the art world. Her painting Mountains and Sea, 1952, introduced the world to her soak-stain technique, the process by which paint was thinned with turpentine and then poured directly onto an unprimed canvas. The physicality of her work—often requiring her to carry cans of paint as she slowly pours color onto her large canvases, stretched out on the floor—places her in the tradition of action painters like Pollock. Yet her approach to Abstract Expressionism offers a personal atmosphere where the painterly tradition is both respected and challenged. The rich texture and materiality of the paint is emphasized at the same time that conventional application is denied. Chance and control blend together in Frankenthaler’s hands, which freely manipulate the viscosity of paint and absorbent possibilities of canvas. What results is a new kind of two-dimensional plane, where the grain of the canvas and its qualities are just as pertinent as those of the poured paint.

-Rebecca Park is editorial intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.