Role of Women Artists, Panhandle in the Growth of the American Art Movement Explored in New Book by WT Professors

CANYON — A recently published book by two West Texas A&M University professors aims to refocus the narrative around a pivotal American art movement.

“Three Women Artists: Expanding Abstract Expressionism in the American West,” published June 23, argues that not only women played an important role in the development of Abstract Expressionism, but also collectors in the Texas Panhandle.

In the years following the emergence of the movement in New York in the 1940s, it was largely defined in rather limited terms, according to Dr. Amy Von Lintel, professor of art history and director of gender studies. , and Dr. Bonnie Roos, Professor of English and Head of Department of English, Philosophy and Modern Languages.

The artists most associated with the movement are Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, but female artists were also very influential, Von Lintel and Roos said.

“We are rethinking some of the strict thinking of what Abstract Expressionism was – rethinking it in terms of genre, geography, medium, style and subject – by examining the evidence,” Von Lintel said.

Not only were women key players in the movement, but they were also not strictly confined to the coasts.

“We examine how they went from being central figures in their time to being marginalized, dismissed as tokens in academic writing until recently,” Roos said.

The book focuses on Elaine de Kooning, Jeanne Reynal, and Louise Nevelson, all of whom traveled frequently to Amarillo and the High Plains, innovating their abstract styles.

“These women ventured from New York to our area for the same reason that artists often travel to new places: they found paid work, markets, patrons and friends,” Von Lintel said.

In particular, they found Dord Fitz, WT’s formal art gallery namesake, who invited them to show their work in “The Women: Tops in Art,” a landmark 1960 exhibition in Amarillo.

“These artists, along with Dord Fitz and his infectious enthusiasm for art, have had an incredible impact on the Texas Panhandle and High Plains region,” said Alex Gregory, curator of art at the Amarillo Museum of Art. “Without these artists visiting the region, holding workshops and selling their work to regional collectors, the history of the museum and of art in the region would be completely different.”

Abstract Expressionists embraced a dynamic, gestural application of paint, as well as more contemplative, non-representational color fields.

Von Lintel and Roos’ book “highlights the efforts of a long-forgotten pioneer who advanced the popular acceptance of Abstract Expressionism. Art dealer Amarillo Dord Fitz publicized and championed Mid-Century Modernism, particularly the Female Abstract Expressionists. This book represents the best of art history (and) belongs in the library of anyone interested in the evolution of the visual arts in the United States in the mid-twentieth century,” said Light Townsend Cummins, former historian of State of Texas and author. of “Allie Victoria Tennant and the Visual Arts in Dallas”.

Von Lintel is the author of “Georgia O’Keeffe’s Wartime Texas Letters”. Roos is the author of Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood: The World and the Politics of Peace. This is the first book they have co-authored.

Their research also inspired “Women of Abstract Expressionism in the American West,” a 2021 exhibition at AMoA.

Von Lintel and Roos’ book is an excellent example of WT’s role as a regional research university, as set out in the university’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

This plan is powered by One West’s historic $125 million global fundraising campaign. To date, the five-year campaign — which launched publicly on September 23 — has raised around $110 million.

Norma D. Ross