Lee Krasner, Gaea, 1966, oil on canvas, 69 x 125 in.
On the third floor at MoMA, just below the magnificent Rauschenberg exhibition, is Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction. The exhibition is ironically and aptly titled, and is intended to be a tribute to and an illumination of the women who elbowed their way into the art world of the '50s and '60s. And indeed, this exhibition features many rarely seen gems from the MoMA collection, including works by Etel Adnan, Annie Albers, Ruth Asawa, Lygia Pape, Lucie Rie, Anne Ryan, and many others. It also brings out of the racks a number of major works by well established women including Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Louise Nevelson, Grace Hartigan, Jo Baer, and Agnes Martin.
This all sounds wonderful -- and it is. But the problem with this exhibition is that it feels like a quaint sidebar, an obligatory nod, rather than a true illumination. Many of the artists in the show, including Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Lynda Benglis, Elaine De Kooning, Jay DeFeo, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, and Pat Passlof are represented by small, or otherwise less-than-major works. The third floor galleries are small, cramped, not well suited to the scale at which most of these artists worked. Then there is the inevitable issue of the artists who were left out.
There is no doubt that if MoMA had pulled out all the stops for this show -- featured the very best work in the collection, in a space that generously accommodated the work -- this could have been a tremendous and long overdue blockbuster show that seriously addressed the awesome achievements of postwar women artists. Instead, as beautiful as it is, this exhibition barely scratched the surface and missed a wonderful opportunity.
Joan Mitchell, Ladybug, 1957, oil on canvas, 78 x 108 in.
Alma Thomas, Untitled, 1968, acrylic and tape on paper, 19 x 51 in.
Yayoi Kusama, No. F, 1959, oil on canvas, 41 x 52 in.
Lynda Benglis, Embryo II, 1967, beeswax, damar, gesso on masonite, 36 x 6 x 5 in.
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Yellow Abakan 1968, sisal, 124 x 120 x 60 in.
Agnes Martin, The Tree, 1964, oil and pencil on canvas, 72 x 72 in.
Images from MoMA website