Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Howardena Pindell at the MCA

The first time I saw Howardena Pindell's work, I was at the 2013 Expo Chicago show. I liked her piece so much that I decided to take a picture of it and include in my post about the show. Even then, without knowing much about the artist or her work, I felt a sort of kinship with her because her style reminded me of my style. So when I found out that she was having a solo exhibition at the MCA, I was really excited. And when I heard she would be giving a talk the Saturday before the show, I knew I had to go.

I wish this picture had turned out better. The artist is seated in the center.

It was so inspiring to hear her speak. She talked about how she could not find a teaching position after getting her MFA and took a position at MOMA. There were numerous benefits to working there, such as being able to go into the galleries when the museum was closed to the public, and having the opportunity to meet artists. Unfortunately, there was one huge drawback: the racism of the art world. However, she was able to use this non-inclusion to her advantage, as not being invited to functions after work meant that she had more time to paint. 

She spoke about her influences, including Josef Albers and Eva Hesse. She also talked about her process, and how she moved away from figurative work to an abstract style that utilized circles, both drawn and painted and punched out with hole punches from Woolworth's at first. To protect her eyes from the strain, she put a television in her studio to look at intermittently. And that led her to create a series of drawings inspired by the movement of images on the screen. 

1979 marked a turning point in her work after a head injury she suffered during a bad car accident led to memory impairment. She decided to make more autobiographical work. She used her work to directly address social issues that concerned her, from the AIDS crisis of the 1980s to the numerous injustices of racism, including in the art world itself. She cautioned the audience that creating art to address social issues has a limited impact.

I was so glad that I got to see her work today at the MCA.

Besides the art, another feature of this show that I really love is section about the year I was born, 1979.

I never thought of it as a significant year in history but I appreciate the time the curators took to highlight the events and pop culture of the time. They are even having a talk at the MCA about what a radical year it was so I guess I was wrong.

The show continues through May 20th and I would definitely recommend it if you like abstract art or if the year 1979 means anything to you.
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