Joan Mitchell, Grandes Carrières, 1961-62
Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) was a major Abstract Expressionist in what's considered the second generation of the movement. She was one of only a handful of women to gain public and critical acclaim within art scene of the time. Mitchell demonstrates a unique brand of Abstract Expressionism; most of her work demonstrates the complete abstraction that marked the height of the movement, but she did not embrace the "all over" ethos that painters like Pollock and Rothko utilized in their signature works. Instead, most Mitchell's paintings retain an intelligible shape and a visual center from which the patterns radiate out. Mitchell's work demonstrates a fiercely intense use of color, where the vibrancy of her tones becomes a characteristic of the expressiveness of her lines. Grandes Carrières demonstrates all of these elements. The power of her gestures is evident in every stroke, and the gestures seem simultaneously aggressive and lyrical. The particular colors in this piece are quite striking; they do not blend at all but they complement each other surprisingly well and each enhances the power of the others. The painting expresses the rising chaos of the modern world, yet also asserts its persisting beauty.