Blog, Exhibitions

Living Colour

Opening tomorrow An exhibition of the work of pioneering Abstract Expressionist artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984)

30th May -1st September at the Barbican

Lee Krasner Desert Moon 1955. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Joy oh joy this exhibition is fabulous. What a coup for the Barbican the first European exhibition for over 50 years of the work of, American artist, Lee Krasner. The exhibition will then tour to Frankfurt, Bern and Bilbao.

Lee Krasner painting Portrait in Green in her studio in Springs, NY,1969. Photograph by Mark Patiky

         Living Colour features nearly 100 works-many on show in the UK for the first time – across her 50year career, and tells the story of a formidable artist whose importance has often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.

Lee Krasner Palingenesis, 1971

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said ‘We are thrilled to be staging Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Despite featuring in museum collections around the world and being one of the few women to have a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1984, Krasner has not received the recognition she deserves in Europe, making this an exciting opportunity for visitors here to experience the sheer impact of her work.”

Lee Krasner 1938 photographer unknown

The exhibition celebrates Krasner’s spirit for invention –including striking early self portraits, a body of energetic charcoal life drawings; original photographs of her proposed department store window displays, designed during the war effort, and her acclaimed ‘Little Image’ paintings from the 1940s with their tightly controlled geometrics.

Lee Krasner Abstract No 2 1946-48


It also featured collages comprised of torn-up earlier work and a selection of her most impressive large scale abstract paintings.

Lee Krasner Polar Stampede 1960

Krasner was determined to find new ways to capture inner experience. As playwright Edward Albee commented at her memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in both her life and her work ‘ she looked you in the eye, and you dare not flinch’.

Lee Krasner Icarus 1964

The work is accompanied by rare photography and film from the period, in an elegant exhibition design by David Copperfield Architects. There is a very nice fully illustrated Thames and Hudson book to accompany the exhibition £35

Blog, Exhibitions

Dorothea Tanning the best female twentieth century artist you’ve never heard of.

Her work is currently on show at Tate Modern. Tanning is one of a number of unjustly overlooked female artists whose work has been reassessed in recent years.

Birthday 1942 oil paint on canvas (Self Portrait)

The show’s curator, Ann Coxon, says that Tanning not only suffered from the sexism of the Surrealist movement but also from her own resistance to being labeled as a feminist artist. This meant that she, in effect, excluded herself from the feminist exhibitions of surrealist art in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

Her time has now come, as she fits in well with the Tate’s mission to display the work of twentieth century female artists.

At the start of her career Tanning was a surrealist painter. She was totally hooked on the idea after seeing the groundbreaking exhibition ‘Fantastic Art, Dada and surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art. This prompted her to visit Paris in 1939, a trip that was cut short by the German invasion. Tanning was able to meet many of the surrealists, including her future husband Max Ernst, when they fled the Nazis for New York.

Tannings 1940’s work is surrealist but also includes a great deal of dramatic gothic touches. The painting that has been used as the exhibition’s poster is amazing and much smaller than you expect it to be.

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik 1943

Eine Klien Nachtmusik (1943) has two girls in Victorian dress fighting a giant tentacled sunflower along a hotel corridor. As with many of Tannings paintings there are a number of doors- inviting you the viewer in.

Alyce Mahon, the exhibitions co-curator says ‘ The door is a talisman for the power of art over the spectator’.

In the 1950’s and 60’s Tanning moved away from Surrealism towards abstraction. Her paintings showed entwined figures which appear to loom out of a blue grey fog.

Poached Trout

Her work is usually accompanied by amusing titles, sometimes in French sometimes in English.  This woman had a sense of humour! As well as paintings and sculpture Tanning also designed for the theatre.

One room in the exhibition is named Maternities. Tanning did not have children but spoke of maternity in a broader sense and sometimes likened artworks to creative offspring. Some of her drawings from this time remind me very much of the raw, minimal vital drawings of Tracy Emin.

The last section of the exhibition shows Tanning’s move into soft sculpture. It is important to remember that she was a pioneer in this method of creativity way ahead of her time and prefiguring the work of Sarah Lucas and Louise Bourgeois. The Installation Hotel du Pavot : chamber 202, is magnificent and shocking all at the same time with its organic shaped forms, bodies?, bursting through the walls.

Installation Hotel du Pavot : chamber 202

Dorothea Tanning is at Tate Modern until June 9th 2019. A great Exhibition not to be missed.