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Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction

Sept 17, 2009–Jan 17, 2010

Although Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986) has long been celebrated as a central figure in twentieth-century art, the abstract works she created throughout her career have remained overlooked by critics and the public in favor of her representational subjects. In 1915, O'Keeffe leaped into abstraction with a group of charcoal drawings that were among the most radical creations produced in the United States at that time. In these and subsequent abstractions, O’Keeffe sought to transcribe her ineffable thoughts and emotions. While her output of abstract work declined after 1930, she returned to abstraction in the mid-1940s with a new vocabulary that provided a precedent for a younger generation of abstractionists. By devoting itself to this largely unexplored area of her work, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction is an overdue acknowledgment of her place as one of America’s first abstract artists.

The exhibition includes more than 125 paintings, drawings, watercolors, and sculptures by O'Keeffe as well as selected examples of Alfred Stieglitz’s famous photographic portrait series of O’Keeffe. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by the organizers, excerpts from the recently unsealed Stieglitz-O’Keeffe correspondence, and a contextual chronology of O'Keeffe's art and life.

The curatorial team, led by Whitney curator Barbara Haskell, includes Barbara Buhler Lynes, curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Emily Fisher Landau Director of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center; Bruce Robertson, professor of the history of art and architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Elizabeth Hutton Turner, professor and vice provost for the arts at the University of Virginia and guest curator at the Phillips Collection; and Sasha Nicholas, Whitney curatorial assistant. Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction travels to The Phillips Collection, Washington DC, February 6–May 9, 2010, and to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, May 28–September 10, 2010.

The national presentation of the exhibition is proudly supported by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Sponsor of opening events for the Whitney’s presentation

Significant support for the Whitney’s presentation is provided by the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, The Shen Family Foundation, Jody and John Arnhold, the Karen and Kevin Kennedy Foundation, and Barney A. Ebsworth.

Official Beauty Sponsor

Additional support is provided by The Cowles Charitable Trust, Judy and Stanley Katz, Michelle and Lawrence Lasser, The Karen and Paul Levy Family Foundation, Harvey-Ann and Harvey M. Ross, The Donald and Barbara Zucker Family Foundation, The Eugene McDermott Foundation, Johanna and Leslie Garfield, Marica and Jan Vilcek, and several anonymous donors.

Media partner Thirteen/WNET

In addition to rethinking O’Keeffe’s role in the development of a uniquely American abstract style, this book chronicles the shifts and changes in subject matter and style over the span of her long career. It adds significant new insight into her life, reproducing excerpts of previously sealed letters written by O’Keeffe to photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924. These previously unpublished letters, along with other primary documents referenced by the authors, offer an intimate glimpse into her creative method and intentions as an artist.

This catalogue is no longer available at the Museum Shop.

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