Georgia O’Keeffe at the Whitney Museum

Novel Look at Georgia O'Keeffe Paintings at the Whitney Exhibit


Before seeing Georgia O'Keeffe at the Whitney Museum, we sort of figured that we knew just about everything there was to know about Georgia O'Keeffe. Paintings of cow skulls in the desert? Check. Pastelish, sexually-suggestive flowers? Yup. Erotic photographs taken of her by longtime partner (and ultimate heartbreaker) Alfred Steiglietz? Of course. And then we saw the big, brilliant, revelatory Georgia O'Keefe exhibition at the Whitney Museum, Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction, and realized how much more we have to learn about this seminal American artist.

 The Early & Later Georgia O'Keeffe Art at the Whitney

Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction at the Whitney Museum offers a remarkable showcase for the less familiar (and, in our opinion, more compelling) side of O'Keeffe, with more than 125 paintings and drawings that focus on her lifelong love affair–sometimes shunted to the side, perhaps, but never gone for good–with bold colors and graphic forms. Much of the Georgia O'Keeffe Whitney exhibition has been culled from the first couple of decades of her career, beginning with her beautiful, simple charcoal drawings and watercolors from around 1915–Georgia O'Keeffe, we learned, was one of the earliest abstractionists working in this country–through to her strikingly sharp and ambitiously different work in the 1930s. In addition to these early works, there are a couple of galleries with pieces created near the end of her life, in the 1970s.    


Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction at the Whitney is important, influential, and truly outstanding stuff. Some of our favorites would include "Grey Blue & Black-Pink Circle", from 1929, above, alive with movement and color. "Early Abstraction" (two images above), painted in 1915 and stunningly radical for an American artist at that time, is, as Holland Cotter nicely puts it in The New York Times, "basically an exercise in linear design, but with an air of mystery and the heft of sculpture." Two of Georgia O'Keeffe's later works have also stayed with us since we saw the Whitney Museum show last week, simple, powerful pieces that show an artist in control, and confident in her vision: Black Door with Red, below, from 1954, and its monochromatic companion, My Last Door, from the same period; and Untitled (Abstraction Red Wave With Circle), created in 1979 when O'Keeffe was a remarkable 92 years old.


Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction at the Whitney Museum details

Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction will be on the museum's third floor galleries through January 17, 2010. The Whitney Museum is located on Madison Avenue and 75th Street, and is open on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., on Friday from 1:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Admission is "pay-what-you-wish" every Friday from 6:00 until 9:00. For more information about Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction and about other exhibitions at the Whitney, you can click through to the museum's website, here.  

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