Heroines of the Abstract Expressionist Era

A new exhibition arrives at the Southampton Arts Center.
Lee Krasner, “Offbeat,” 1956. Photo by Gary Mamay

The abstract expressionist movement is best known for its male superstars, but women were also pioneers of the genre. Heroines of the Abstract Expressionist Era showcases the work of artists such as Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Perle Fine, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Alice Baber, Lynne Drexler, and others—women whose artwork finds long overdue acclaim and new appreciation with a contemporary audience. We are also celebrating women whose work, while not abstract, is associated with the abstract expressionist era and are individuals who were part of the New York art scene, such as Mercedes Matter, Hedda Sterne, Jane Freilicher, and Jane Wilson. These works by first and second-generation “Ab Ex Women” artists are from the collection of Rick Friedman and Cindy Lou Wakefield.

Lee Krasner, “Gouache #5,” 1942

This exhibition—which runs from October 7 to December 17—features paintings, sculptures and works on paper that are visually mesmerizing and technically complex. It offers the widest breadth of any private assemblage of this genre, featuring over 100 works by 32 women artists. The artwork demonstrates how these artists pushed themselves in new directions as leaders and total participants in the abstract expressionist movement. The artists and their work were undervalued and overlooked for many years but have recently been revisited and reevaluated, giving these artists their due.

Elaine de Kooning, “Cave #24,” 1984

For more than 60 years, these women’s contributions to the movement were forgotten, while works by men such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning have been canonized in the history of American art. It has taken the dedication of scholars and curators—and the commitment of a handful of visionary collectors like Rick Friedman and Cindy Lou Wakefield—to restore these women artists to their rightful place in the history of American art. southamptonartscenter.org