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REVIEW: Women of Color Find Their Rightful Place in the History of American Abstraction

Mildred Thompson, “Magnetic Fields” (1991) oil on canvas, triptych 70.5 x 150 inches (art and photo courtesy and copyright of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, GA). Artworks Advisory

KANSAS CITY — Art history rarely gets it right the first time, but the established accounts of American abstraction that canonized particular artists before the paint on their work was dry, is proving particularly vulnerable to criticism. Whether due to a rejection of the staggering certitude of Greenberg’s formalism, the deep veins of racism/classism/sexism running through twentieth- century criticism and curation, or the closely guarded access to institutions of art, these historical narratives are undergoing an intensive curatorial corrective.

An important achievement towards this end is Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today, organized at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, by independent curator Melissa Messina and Kemper’s director of curatorial affairs, Erin Dziedzic. The exhibition, generously funded by the NEA and the Andy Warhol Foundation, is on view through September 17, after which it travels to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. According to the Kemper, this is the first museum exhibit in the US to show abstract artwork created exclusively by women of color. Stylistically varied and teeming with formal flights of bravura, the exhibit seems to engage the magnetic forces of the Mildred Thompson painting from which it takes its name. Read More

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