Female Artists of Post War & Contemporary Art
Discover Female Artists in Rago’s May 5 Fine Art Auctions
30 April 2018
with contributions from Lauren Bradley, Rago Fine Art Specialist
For centuries, female artists have faced opposition within the mainstream narrative of art history. But despite challenges due to gender bias, many women artists have found their place in the competitive contemporary art scene, raising their voices and telling their stories through art.
Ahead of our May 5th Fine Art Auctions, we take a deeper look at the works of female artists and explore their individual contributions to the larger art world.
Best known for her colorful abstractions, Alma Thomas spent the majority of her career teaching art rather than creating it. As the first female Fine Arts graduate from Howard University (where she trained under the institutions art program founder James V. Herring), Thomas was encouraged to explore abstraction by her instructors. She was the first African-American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In 2009, two paintings by Alma Thomas were chosen by First Lady Michelle Obama, White House interior designer Michael Smith and White House curator William Allman to be exhibited during the Obama presidency. In 2015, the Obamas hung Thomas's work Resurrection in the Old Family Dining Room, making it the first work by an African-American woman to hang in the public spaces of the White House as part of the permanent collection.
An influential American artist in the field of fiber art, Lenore Tawney moved to New York City in the 1950s and worked with artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin and Jack Youngerman. She became part of the avant-garde world of the abstract expressionists, where her tapestries were celebrated as sculptural 'woven forms.’
Of her mixed media assemblages, Tawney said: “These delicate, poetic pieces were often spiritual in nature, containing elusive messages about finding inner peace and the fragility of life.”
Known for her monumental, monochromatic sculptures, Louise Nevelson is one of the most important figures in 20th-century American sculpture.
Born in present-day Ukraine, Nevelson immigrated to the United States and attended art classes at the Art Students League of New York in the 1930s, going on to study under Hans Hofmann and Chaim Gross. Early in her career, Nevelson experimented with painting, printing and conceptual art made with found objects, but ultimately dedicated her lifework to sculpture.
Nevelson’s work has been displayed at cultural institutions worldwide, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her public installations can be found in 17 U.S. states.
Edna Andrade had a long and productive career at the forefront of the Op-Art and Hard-Edge movements. Her illusionary, undulating, warped and optically stimulating work focused on visual reactions and engagement rather than narrative development or emotional response. Based out of Philadelphia for nearly fifty years, Andrade was an important force in the Philadelphia art world and left behind a lasting and long-reaching legacy.
Andrade is best known for measured combinations of form, geometry and pattern. Her carefully considered palettes consist of contrasting and complementary hues. Although best known for her paintings, Edna Andrade explored a variety of mediums, leaving behind a vast oeuvre ranging from delicate, detailed drawings to massive, boldly colored canvases.
Jane Piper’s prismatic shards of color and generous use of white combine to create a unique and identifiable style. An adept colorist, Piper’s segmented and disjointed compositions often feature floral arrangements and tabletop vignettes or suggested landscapes. Considered an important American Modernist, Piper continues in the tradition of two of her most admired instructors, Arthur Carles and Hans Hofmann.
Marilyn Minter’s visually rich work borrows from advertising and pornography, often including sexual and erotic imagery described as simultaneously repellent and mesmerizing. Her photographs and paintings depict sparkling and glamourous close-ups, granting viewers an opportunity to stare deeply, perhaps voyeuristically, at a subject they may not have otherwise viewed. Minter teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
An art dealer and collector, as well as an artist, Betty Parsons is celebrated for her early promotion of Abstract Expressionism. She opened her eponymous gallery in midtown Manhattan in 1946, regularly exhibiting the avant-garde before it was truly appreciated by the art world at large. Parsons is famous for representing artists such as Theodoros Stamos, Ellsworth Kelly, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg among others.
Throughout her illustrious career as a gallerist, Parsons maintained a steady artistic practice of her own. This personal training influenced her ability to spot innovative talent and guided her commitment to fostering new and emerging artist of her time.
In a 1977 interview published in Art in America Parsons explained, “When I’m not at the gallery, my own art is my relaxation. That’s my greatest joy.”