In June 2016, Gwen Chanzit curated an exhibit of 51 paintings by 12 women called “Women in Abstract Impressionism” at the Denver Art Museum. It featured major works by female contemporaries of America’s prominent male Abstract Expressionist …
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In June 2016, Gwen Chanzit curated an exhibit of 51 paintings by 12 women called “Women in Abstract Impressionism” at the Denver Art Museum. It featured major works by female contemporaries of America’s prominent male Abstract Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko … Men in the movement had their work critiqued, studied and exhibited extensively, while many outstanding women went unrecognized and were not able to get their work exhibited or critiqued, she learned.
Chanzit will speak about the movement, the exhibition and her process in organizing it at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Littleton Museum in a free First Thursday Lecture. Her presentation will include many color images from the exhibition. Free tickets are available in advance at the museum desk.
Chanzit is curator emerita of modern art at the Denver Art Museum and professor of the practice and director of museum studies in art history at the University of Denver. She said in a fall 2016 University of Denver Magazine story that she began developing the idea for her show in 2008 when she visited a New York exhibit centering around critics of abstract expressionism. It mentioned unfamiliar names, including men of color — and a number of women. Realizing the possibility of an interesting exhibit topic, she began researching and learned that there had never been a major exhibition devoted just to the women in that important, first fully American, modern art movement.
In 2012, she began intense research on the movement, which ran from 1945-1960. This included locating paintings in museums and private collections, arranging for loans, documenting artists’ lives and chronologies for the period. Assisted by a pair of former students, Jessie Laird Ortega and Renee Miller, she opened a stunning show in June 2016 at the Denver Art Museum. A handsome catalog, printed by Yale University Press, accompanied the exhibit, which traveled elsewhere after it closed in Denver.
Some painters in the exhibit were well-recognized, such as Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner, whose works had been exhibited with the male artists, primarily in New York, but this was a first in terms of an all-women roster. The Denver Art Museum acquired eight new paintings, including Mary Abbott’s “All Green” and three promised gifts, as a result of the show. Chanzit views them “as a legacy of this exhibition” and hopes people will come to the museum to see them in the future.
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