Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction

Overview

Although Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) has long been regarded as a central figure in 20th-century art, the abstract works she created throughout her career have remained critically and popularly overlooked in favor of her representational subjects. Beginning with charcoal drawings made in 1915, which were among the most radical creations produced in the United States at that time, O’Keeffe sought to transcribe pure emotion in her work. While her output of abstract work declined after 1930, she returned to ...

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Overview

Although Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) has long been regarded as a central figure in 20th-century art, the abstract works she created throughout her career have remained critically and popularly overlooked in favor of her representational subjects. Beginning with charcoal drawings made in 1915, which were among the most radical creations produced in the United States at that time, O’Keeffe sought to transcribe pure emotion in her work. While her output of abstract work declined after 1930, she returned to abstraction in the 1950s with a new vocabulary that provided a precedent for a younger generation of abstractionists. By devoting itself to this largely unexplored area of her work, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction is an overdue acknowledgment of her place as one of America’s first abstractionists.

In addition to rethinking O’Keeffe’s role in the development of a uniquely American abstract style, this book chronicles the shifts and changes in subject matter and style over the span of her long career. It adds significant new insight into her life, reproducing excerpts of previously sealed letters written by O’Keeffe to photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924. These previously unpublished letters, along with other primary documents referenced by the authors, offer an intimate glimpse into her creative method and intentions as an artist.

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Editorial Reviews

Maine Antique Digest - Rose Safran
"A beautifully illustrated book about this icon, a liberated, unconventional, independent, and spirited American woman and celebrity who predated the feminist movement and had few peers."—Rose Safran, Maine Antique Digest
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

This book from Whitney Museum curator Haskell, accompanying the museum's September 2009 exhibit, contains essays by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Bruce Robertson and Barbara Buhler Lunes, each of whom examine O'Keefe's visual vocabulary in relation to form and line, and the influence of nature, Art Nouveau and decorative art movements, and the scholarly work of Arthur Wesley Dow. O'Keefe herself described her work as an attempt to make visible "intangible feelings that were beyond her conscious grasp." O'Keefe was struck by the possibility of painting music and finding the elemental forms within "seemingly simple things"; one characteristically fascinating series, called Shell and Old Shingle, progresses from fairly accurate representation to curvilinear abstracts. Elsewhere, Robertson calls O'Keefe's Jack-in-the-Pulpit series "O'Keefe's most complete statement of the relationship between abstraction and representation." Also fascinating are photographs by O'Keefe's husband, gallery curator Alfred Stieglitz, accompanied by excerpts from their correspondence full of personal passion and tension, but also O'Keefe's motivations, the messages she struggled to communicate, and her sense of forever falling short. Contemporary critics labeled O'Keefe's paintings Freudian expressions of sexuality and unconscious desires, in large part because of Stieglitz's marketing, but these evaluations fall flat when looking deeply at both subject and painting; Haskell and her colleagues do full justice to their subject, with beautiful, luminous reproductions and a revealing collection of work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal
Books about Georgia O'Keeffe abound, including biographies; brilliantly illustrated exhibition catalogs; analyses of O'Keeffe's more or less well-known motifs; studies of particular mediums, materials, or methods; feminist considerations; and looks at her life and art vis-à-vis Alfred Stieglitz. This work contains aspects of each of those book types while remaining focused on investigating the abstract nature of O'Keeffe's work and its significance in American abstraction. It is also a traveling exhibition and catalog arranged collaboratively by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (now through January 17, 2010); the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (February 6 to May 9, 2010); and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe (May 28 to September 12, 2010). Editor Haskell and essayists Barbara Buhler-Lynes, Bruce Robertson, and Elizabeth Hutton Turner are curators at major art museums and exceedingly prolific art historians. VERDICT This lavishly illustrated book is well documented and well laid out, as well as a page-turner to boot. Recommended for lovers of O'Keeffe, American art, and biography.—Jennifer Pollock, Coll. of DAAP Lib., Univ. of Cincinnati
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300148176
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Haskell is Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Barbara Buhler Lynes is Curator at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Emily Fisher Landau Director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center in Santa Fe. Bruce Robertson is Professor of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Elizabeth Hutton Turner is Professor and Vice Provost for the Arts at the University of Virginia and Guest Curator at the Phillips Collection.

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 10, 2009

    Abstractions: The Best Work

    This is a beautiful book with gorgeous plates of work rarely seen or published outside of New Mexico. And such a gift to find that Ms. O'Keeffe was so far ahead of her time. Nice biographical references but mostly a wonderful book to have out to enjoy and to be inspired by.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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