Ernst Haas/ Getty Image
Melissa Locker
September 29, 2015

The words “abstract expressionism” bring to mind the paintings of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline, but a new show at the Denver Art Museum hopes call greater attention to the women of the period, including artists Mary Abbott, Grace Hartigan, Ethel Schwabacher, and Joan Mitchell.

Women of Abstract Expressionism will be the first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on abstract expressionist painters who were women. The showcase, which opens in June 2016, will feature more than 50 works by 12 artists.

The show will feature paintings by Grace Hartigan, who combined pop art and abstraction, Helen Frankenthaler, who created a soak-stain painting technique that proved influential for color field painting, and Joan Mitchell, who is sometimes called “the last abstract expressionist” since she painted in the style until 1992.

Some of the artists in the show, like Elaine de Kooning, wife of William, and Lee Krasner, wife of Jackson Pollock, painted in the shadows of their more famous partners. This show will hopefully elevate their work—as well as the works of Sonia Gechtoff, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, and Judith Godwin, to name a few—to their rightful place in the canon.

“The exhibition will contribute to a more complete understanding of this important mid-20th century movement by presenting artists beyond the handful of painters who have previously defined the whole in textbook accounts,” said Gwen Chanzit, the curator of modern art at the DAM, in a statement. “It also will present these female artists together for the first time. While visitors discover the significant role of women in the formation of abstract expressionism, they will be treated to a powerful presentation of remarkable paintings.”

Following its run at the Denver Art Museum, the show will travel to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Palm Springs Art Museum in California.

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