Joan Mitchell Becomes the Sunflower

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The New York Sun

“Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings” closes today at Cheim and Read. The exhibition focuses on paintings she made from 1985 until her death in 1992.

“Though Mitchell abstracted nature, gleaning only its essence, her advocacy for the natural world as a subject finds precedence in the plein air and Impressionist painters a century before,” according to the gallery. “As Richard D. Marshall elucidates in his essay, Mitchell admired Cézanne, Monet and Van Gogh; their interpretations of the same landscape originated from similarly sensitive perceptions of their surroundings. Non-traditional palettes, and, especially in Monet’s case, a decisive deconstruction of the image, brought attention to brushstrokes and paint itself, a concern that was to be paramount for Mitchell and her contemporaries.

“Van Gogh’s sunflowers were also an inspiration. The motif (represented by two paintings in this show) is linked not only to Van Gogh, but also to an allegory of mortality. As in Sunflowers, 1990–91, she chose to paint the flowers in a state of decay, reinforcing her desire for the work to ‘convey the feeling of a dying sunflower.’ Through her late work, she strived for immortality, for a merging with the timelessness and formlessness of nature: ‘I become the sunflower, the lake, the tree. I no longer exist.'”

“Joan Mitchell: The Last Paintings” runs through January 4 at Cheim & Read, 547 West 25th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues, 212-242-7727, cheimread.com.

Franklin Einspruch is an artist and writer. He blogs at Artblog.net.


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