Joan Mitchell, Installation View, 2011
Seeing the exhibition of works from Joan Mitchell's last ten years at Cheim & Read (through January 4, 2012) is a deeply moving experience. Embedded in these paintings is an unmistakable sense of archetypal paradox, of the artist both painfully and expectantly in touch with her mortality -- at once refusing to submit and feeling the exhilarating release of submission. These paintings make abundantly evident that as the artist's body was near the end, her work was in an exalted zone of clarity -- extravagant and stoic, sensuous and blunt, celebratory and defiant. We can only respond by echoing the title of the last painting in the show -- MERCI, Joan, merci.
Joan Mitchell, River, 1989, 110 x 157 inches, oil on canvas, diptych
Joan Mitchell, Yves, 1991, 110 x 78 inches, oil on canvas
Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers, 1990-91, 110 x 157 inches, oil on canvas, diptych
Joan Mitchell, Merci, 1992, 110 x 141 inches, oil on canvas, diptych
Joan Mitchell, Merci (detail)