This original and sharply obser-vant book gives new significance to three important figures in the history of twentieth-century art: Eva Hesse, Lee Krasner, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Anne Wagner looks at their imagery and careers, relating their work to three decisive moments in the history of American modernism: the avant-garde of the 1920s, the New York School of the 1940s and 1950s, and the modernist redefinition undertaken in the 1960s. Their artistic contributions were invaluable, Wagner demonstrates, as well as hard-won. She also shows that the fact that these artists were women—the main element linking the three—is as much the index of difference among their art and experience as it is a passkey to what they share.
In this scholarly new book, Wagner (history of art, Univ. of California, Berkeley) skillfully probes and tracks how each of these important American modernists at one time coped with life as both a professional artist and wife of a more famous one. "O'Keeffe's Femininity" demonstrates how infamous she was at rendering body imagery: "to imagine an impossible unionthe passionate coupling of hygiene and scatology, the body and its absence." Lee Krasner is shown painting her own way through Jackson Pollock's as well as Arshile Gorky's conventions until she eventually achieved autobiographical essays in paint and collage. Eva Hesse is optimistically identified as an innovative commentator on new sexuality, focusing on her body, but not her body alone. This gendered interpretation of three of the foremost American modernist women artists presents an interesting blend of biographical and historical criticism. Recommended for most academic collections.Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson State Univ., Md.
San Francisco Chronicle
"No other feminist critic has shown so clearly...what it means to respect equally the reality of a female artist and the reality of her work."