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Women's Work

May 23 - August 26, 2012


A distinguished selection of work by women artists from the 19th century to present day will be on view at the National Academy in Women's Work. The exhibition, on view May 23 through August 26, 2012, reflects the Academy's mission of presenting outstanding work by noteworthy, as well as under-recognized, artists. Including rarely shown pieces, the exhibition aims to broaden perceptions and knowledge of art work by American women, considering their work within the context of American art history. (right: Colleen Browning, Holiday, 1954, Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches. Private Collection, Hastings, New York)

Women artists have been central to the National Academy since its founding in 1825. Their roles as Academicians, exhibitors, students and art instructors are emblematic of the Academy's visionary and eclectic nature. "Since the Academy's inception, women artists have played an important role," states Bruce Weber, Senior Curator, 19th and early 20th Century Art. "Women's Work displays the achievements of women in American art over a hundred years. The exhibition offers many surprises, featuring works in a variety of media by well-known artists, but also artists worthy of recognition or reconsideration. We are especially proud of a rare set of drypoints by Mary Cassatt, certainly one of the highlights of the show."

In addition to Cassatt's prints, Women's Work emphasizes the evolution of sculpture from classical allegory of the early 19th century to politically and sexually charged work by contemporary artists. Colleen Browning: Urban Dweller, Exotic Traveler offers a fresh and intimate look at the realist painter. May Stevens' Big Daddy Series explores the significance of Steven's art of the late 1960s, and From Protest to Process: Recent Gifts by Women Academicians touches on the paintings and prints of some of the finest women artists working today.


Mary Cassatt: Graphic Artist

Over the course of her career impressionist painter Mary Cassatt created over 200 graphic works, the majority of which were not printed for general sale. Her most important graphic art is a set of twelve drypoints that she created in 1889 and 1890, and printed in an edition of 25 impressions. Distinguished by their free flowing line, compositional economy, and emphasis on contour, the set is evenly divided between studies of young women and the theme of mother and child. This outstanding group of prints was given to the Academy in 1903 by the artist, printmaker and decorator Samuel Colman, who became closely aware of Cassatt's work through his association with her great patrons Louisine and Henry Osborne Havemeyer.


Women Sculptors of the National Academy

Women Sculptors of the National Academy highlights approximately 20 works dating from the 1890s to the late 20th century. The pieces range in subject from classical allegory in Evelyn Beatrice Longman's Victory (1903;1908) to Nancy Grossman's politically charged Gunhead (c. 1991); and from the ethnic references of the late Elizabeth Catlett's Fluted Head to the sexually charged work of recently deceased Academician, Louise Bourgeois. The exhibition also reflects significant but currently overlooked artists of the past including Margaret Cresson, Cleo Hartwig, Jennie Ruth Nickerson, Marion Roller, and Katherine Lane Weems.


Colleen Browning: Urban Dweller, Exotic Traveler

Realist painter Colleen Browning's work is largely recognized for its command of material and media and for her unwavering devotion to depicting the human condition. Colleen Browning: Urban Dweller, Exotic Traveler highlights Browning's provocative sense of design, underlying abstract compositional structure, bold application of texture and pattern, and personal and dramatic renderings of light and atmosphere. Featuring twenty works, the exhibition uncovers Browning's subject matter: New York City and sites in the developing world where Browning visited and worked, including Grenada, South America, and North Africa.


May Stevens

As a seminal feminist artist, May Stevens never shied away from controversial topics. Beginning in the late 1960s Stevens undertook a series of important protest paintings. These works were vehement visual protests against the Vietnam War, and biting commentaries on the state of civil rights in America. They were harsh satirical depictions of what Stevens saw as the white, male-dominated authoritarian power structures in the country. The significance of her work and political message continues to resonate today.


From Protest to Process: Recent Gifts by Women Academicians

From Protest to Process: Recent Gifts by Women Academicians shows approximately thirty gifts covering forty years of artistic production in painting and printmaking. The installation illustrates several artistic strategies and approaches. Included are Sarai Sherman's color etchings of popular musicians, including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Howardena Pindell's Autobiography: Hiroshima Disguised (in 10 parts), Emma Amos' Giza and Faith, Polly Appelbaum's The Fandancer, Frances Barth's Violet, Julie Heffernan's Millenium Burial Mound, Jacqueline Gourevitch's Night:WTC Looking East, and recent work by Nancy Friese, Karen Kunc, Ellen Lanyon, Carole Robb, Diana Horowitz, and others.


Related events

Against the Grain: Strategies, Choices, and Controversies of Women in Sculpture
The National Academy in collaboration with the International Sculpture Center, presented Against the Grain: Strategies, Choices, and Controversies of Women in Sculpture on Wednesday, May 30, 2102.
Moderated by Joan Marter, Distinguished Professor of Art History at Rutgers University, artists and National Academicians Lin Emery, Nancy Grossman, Pat Lasch, and Rhoda Sherbell discussed the trajectories and achievements of their careers in the context of professional and aesthetic dimensions of the art world.
Lin Emery borrows from natural elements -- wind -- water -- magnets, to set her sculptures in motion. Using abstract shapes, they move and change even as you walk around them creating the ever present belief that life is always in constant motion.
Nancy Grossman's intensely powerful sculptures address both philosophical and physical aspects of sculpture. Exploring issues such as violence, power and sexual dominance, they are sometimes described as disturbing but always drive her investigation of conventional female constraints.
Best known for her cake sculptures made out of wood and acrylic paint, artist Pat Lasch is frequently inspired by personal experience. Her cakes become shared memories both good and bad, both beautiful to look at yet painful to the touch.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, sculptor Rhoda Sherbell uses formal techniques to create bronzes addressing a variety of topics ranging from mythological scenes to American's favorite pastime, baseball.
Linear Thinking: Mary Cassatt's Prints
As part of ARTalks, a series of lectures and discussions on art and architecture, the National Academy Museum presents Linear Thinking: Mary Cassatt's Prints on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 6:30pm at the National Academy Museum located at 1083 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. Fee..
Dr. Nancy Mowll Mathews, Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Art Emerita, Williams College Museum of Art, will discuss Mary Cassatt's work as a graphic artist, with particular focus on the set of drypoints she created in France in 1889 and 1890. These works exploit the power of line and evoke the artist's unique connection of hand, eye, and mind. As Dr. Matthews will reveal, the early states of these prints, many of which are in other New York collections, serve as cinematic frames in an animation of Cassatt's creative process, providing rare insight into her own thought and develop. As finished products, the twelve prints document the moment when Cassatt emerged as a major artist in Paris, leading to her first one person exhibition in 1891.
Linear Thinking: Mary Cassatt's Prints is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Women's Work on view at the National Academy Museum through August 26, 2012, one of a series of exhibitions which highlight the work of American women artists dating from the 19th through the 21st century, drawn from the Academy's permanent collection.

(above: Mary Cassatt, Tea, c. 1890, Drypoint, Sheet size: 12 ? x 9 7/8 inches, Plate size: 7 1/8 x 6 1/8 inches)


(above: Mary Cassatt, The Mandolin Player, c. 1889, Drypoint, Sheet size: 12 ? x 9 7/8 inches, Plate size: 9 3/8 x 6 3/8 inches)


(above: Elizabeth Catlett, b. 1915, Fluted Head, 1991, Patinated bronze, 12 1/2 x 9 x 9 inches)


To view additional images from the exhibition, please click here.

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For biographical information on artists referenced in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists

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