Georgia O’Keeffe in a New Light, Hawaii to New York and Between
Georgia O’Keeffe, the pioneering modernist artist and perennial favorite, has in recent years been the subject of exhibitions about the first two decades of her long career, from 1915 to the 1930s, and about the clothing she wore and the control she exerted over the way she was photographed.
This year she will be cast in a new light, in exhibitions at the New York Botanical Garden, exploring works made in Hawaii, where she traveled on a corporate commission, and at Crystal Bridges Museum of Contemporary Art, in Bentonville, Ark., which is presenting a survey of her work alongside that of contemporary artists she inspired. She will also be part of a broad American Modernist exhibition of 160 works of fine and decorative art, all from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
O’Keeffe, who was born on a Wisconsin wheat farm in 1887 and died in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1986, was, according to her obituary in The New York Times that is still resonant today, a key figure in “the American 20th century.”
“As much as anyone since Mary Cassatt,” the obituary continued, “she raised the awareness of the American public to the fact that a woman could be the equal of any man in her chosen field.”
Here are the details of the exhibitions about the artist whose images expressed what she called “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.”
Visions of Hawaii
A little-known aspect of O’Keeffe’s career — a nine-week immersion in the landscape of Hawaii, stemming from a 1939 commission from the Hawaiian Pineapple Company to produce two paintings for advertising campaigns — is the inspiration for the New York Botanical Garden’s exhibition, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i.”
Running from May 19 through Oct. 28, this show will feature in the Mertz Library Art Gallery a display of more than 15 O’Keeffe works depicting Hawaii — not shown together in New York since their 1940 exhibition at American Place Gallery, owned by her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory will display plantings that highlight Hawaii’s wild and cultivated flora, and a hale, an open-sided, thatched-roof pavilion inspired by traditional Hawaiian architecture.
Other highlights will include a poetry walk featuring the work of W. S. Merwin, a former United States poet laureate and longtime resident of Maui, and native Hawaiian poets and chanters; an interactive mobile guide with augmented reality videos that will transport viewers to the islands O’Keeffe visited; installations of sculpture, inspired by Hawaiian flora, by the contemporary Hawaiian artist Mark Chai; Hawaiian-themed children’s programming; and appearances by the contemporary Hawaiian fashion designer Manaola Yap, the tribal tattoo master Keone Nunes, guitarists Led Kaapana and Willie K, and the ukulele and falsetto master Kamaka Fernandez, among others.
“The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe & Contemporary Art” will have its debut at Crystal Bridges Museum of Contemporary Art in Bentonville, Ark. (May 26 to Sept. 3), then travel to the North Carolina Museum of Art (Oct. 13 to Jan. 20, 2019) and the New Britain Museum of American Art (Feb. 22 to May 19, 2019). It will feature 34 works by O’Keeffe dating from 1916 through 1976, as well as 53 works by 20 contemporary artists who are inspired by O’Keeffe’s legacy or explore themes similar to hers, such as flowers, landscapes and the interplay between abstraction and realism.
The exhibition takes its name from a 1972 O’Keeffe painting of an almost abstract horizon at twilight. One of the last works she was able to complete unassisted as her eyesight failed, it is in the collection of her museum in Santa Fe. Chad Alligood, co-curator of the exhibition, a former curator at Crystal Bridges and currently chief curator of American art at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in California, called O’Keeffe “the first female superstar of 20th-century American art, and because of that she will remain a touchstone for contemporary artists today, whatever the subject matter.”
Not surprisingly, O’Keeffe’s work plays a prominent role in “Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950,” a wide-ranging survey at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on display from April 18 to Sept. 3. The exhibition will feature examples of American Modernism from its collection, including painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs, costumes and decorative arts; paintings and drawings will include works by other members of Stieglitz’s circle like Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove.
Among the seven O’Keeffe works to be featured is “From the Lake No. 3,” an abstracted landscape of the area around Lake George, N.Y., where O’Keeffe and Stieglitz spent summers. The exhibition curator, Jessica Todd Smith, likens it to Stieglitz’s “Equivalents” series, abstract images of clouds he shot in the 1920s and 1930s, because the photographs “tried to do what painting does with abstraction.”
A book accompanying the exhibition will explore O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s friendship with Carl Zigrosser, a New York gallery director, collector and Philadelphia Museum curator from 1940 to 1963. The five of her paintings left to the museum by the estates of Stieglitz (administered by O’Keeffe after he died in 1946) and O’Keeffe are in the show.
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