NEWPORT BEACH, CA.- The Orange County Museum of Art
presents Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia OKeeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin, and Florence Miller Pierce, the first exhibition to bring together the work of these four important American modernist painters. More than 100 works have been drawn from the most prominent and private collections in the United States for this exhibition. All four women made indelible marks on modernist art of the 20th century OKeeffe and Pelton created distinctive images using lush, organic forms, while Martin and Pierce produced signature geometric works of sublime simplicity. They also all drew on nature as their primary focus, inspired by arid and spare desert environments: OKeeffe, Pierce and Martin, lived much of their lives in New Mexico, while Pelton resided in Cathedral City near Palm Springs, California. Through their keen sense of place they each developed vocabularies with varying degrees of abstraction and share an interest in illumination and a desire to convey transcendence and spirituality in their paintings. Illumination: The Paintings of Georgia OKeeffe, Agnes Pelton, Agnes Martin, and Florence Miller Pierce is on view from May 3September 6, 2009.
OCMA Director Dennis Szakacs said, We are pleased to present an exhibition that sheds new light on these two groups of contemporaries and on the development of American art from one generation to the next during a pivotal time in history.
Although Georgia OKeeffe and Agnes Martin had celebrated careers, Agnes Pelton and Florence Miller Pierce are far less known yet of increasing interest to art historians and other artists. This exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity to document and explore the little understood yet revealing interconnections among these four remarkable figures.
OKeeffe (1887-1986) and Pelton (1881-1961) were born six years apart in the 1880s, while Martin (1912-2004) and Pierce (1918-2007) were born six years apart in the 1910s. OKeeffe and Pelton, who both studied in New York City and were influenced by the teachings of Arthur Wesley Dow, made figurative drawings and paintings early in their careers but then, inspired by a mutual interest in early modernism and Kandinskys Concerning the Spirituality in Art, started to explore abstractions of nature beginning in 1915-16. From the mid-1920s to the 1930s, Pelton and OKeeffe developed visual vocabularies of organic forms in lyrical paintings that hover between abstraction and representation. With their keen reverence for nature, sense of place, and spirituality, Pelton and OKeeffe produced organic abstractions and visionary landscapes bearing striking similarities. Raised as Christians, both artists became keenly interested in Theosophy, a religious philosophy that sought a mystical or spiritual reality beyond the material world.
Along with Pelton, Florence Miller Pierce had a brief alliance with the Taos Transcendental Painting Group, which she joined after moving to New Mexico at the age of 18. She went on to explore various media throughout her career, until a chance drop of liquid resin onto a piece of aluminum foil in 1969 led to the creation of a process that would consume her for the rest of her lifelayering resin and pigment onto mirrored Plexiglas to create ethereal surfaces that seem to emanate light.
Agnes Martin, who began her career in 1950s New York was initially associated with Abstract Expressionism and exhibited at the famed Betty Parsons Gallery. Martin also developed a singular focusextremely spare, simple grid compositions, impeccably rendered in drawings, paintings, and mixed-media works. Bearing poetic titles, these apparently Minimalist works are actually evocations of emotional states and nature, a primary influence for Martin since her childhood on the plains of Western Canada.