Joan Mitchell,Sunflowers, 1990-1991 ©Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York, Courtesy David Zwirner
Standing before a Joan Mitchell painting, as I tried to bring language to her colors and gestures, the first word that came to me waswingspan.当我走过九个绘画时，在她最近的两个展览会上分布在两个房间里，“我带着我的景观和我在一起”在大卫Zwirner，我寻找了定期标志着她工作的超大规模的盛大拱形冲程。术语wingspansuggests a great bird or angel, but it occurs to me simply as shorthand for达到, like that of a star athlete: a tennis player’s serve, a baseball player’s windup, a basketball center’s blocking ability. (Almost every consideration of her work mentions the seemingly requisite detail that she was an accomplished figure skater in her youth.) Joan Mitchell was not unusually proportioned or exceptionally tall (a patient archivist from the foundation points me to a mid-60’s driver’s license that places her at 5’6”), but she brought an enormity to her painting, whether in individual gestures—juxtaposing the large and sweeping, with the small and delicate—or in the size of the canvases themselves. Most works in the Zwirner show measure between eight and ten feet in height. In my mind, the paintings are always linked to a series of images included with Linda Nochlin’s essay in the 2003 Whitney Museum Joan Mitchell catalog, which were meant to illustrate the woman artist as subject, not object: the famous 1950 Hans Namuth photograph of Jackson Pollock painting秋季节奏in his East Hampton studio, with Pollock like a dancer leaning forward, brush in one hand, paint can in the other, arcing drips across his unstretched canvas on the floor; Cecil Beaton’s photograph forVoguefrom the following year titled blankly杰克逊波洛克绘画前的模型, showing a model in a strapless couture dress holding a pair of black gloves standing stiffly with a Pollock painting serving as the backdrop; and finally Rudy Burckhardt’s 1957 photograph of Joan Mitchell, feet planted firmly, facing her canvasBridge, back to the viewer, her right arm stretched to its limit as she slashes horizontally at a height almost certainly exceeding six feet tall. This photograph of Mitchell documents a body’s limit from rootedness to extension. Standing there in a room surrounded by her work, I see clearly that through her painting, Mitchell made herself a giant.
I’ve been struggling with a question: why are Joan Mitchell’s paintings important现在？与历史无关的看画的吗last century with landscape as their subject and wonder if they portend something ominous? To closely examine a visual artist’s recorded view of a landscape from a half century, or even a few decades, ago is to begin looking for signs of change, degradation, hints of potential impending collapse. Joan Mitchell’s paintings are primarily documents of expression, capturing a memory or a feeling of a place, rather than depicting a specific landscape itself. Her method of painting channels the dynamic and fraught relationship between human making and the natural world, maintaining an element of struggle, even violence, underneath. Here in the paintings, a persistent force struggles against a threat of impending collapse, often culminating in an ecstatic result.