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For Immediate release

August, 2008

MCNAY EXPLORES THE PIVOTAL EARLY PAINTINGS OF

PIONEER ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONIST PAINTER

San Antonio, TX — This fall the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio looks afresh to that heady moment in history when Abstract Expressionism was still a movement in the making and not yet a chapter in textbooks. The occasion is the exhibition of 28 paintings created between 1950 and the mid-1960s by one of the nation’s pioneer abstract expressionist painters, the New York-based Judith Godwin.

On view from September 3, 2008 through January 4, 2009,

Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions is organized by the museum, which also will issue a fully illustrated catalogue that includes essays by Lowery Stokes Sims, curator, Museum of Art and Design, New York, and David Ebony, managing editor, Art in America, providing an art historical and cultural context for Godwin’s oeuvre.

"We see in these paintings how a young artist, new to New York, removes representational elements from her paintings to create powerful non-objective compositions," says René Paul Barilleaux, Chief Curator/Curator of Art after 1945 at the McNay and the organizer of the exhibition. "The 50s was a crucial time in her development: How does she continue to push towards abstraction and yet still devise personal statements?"

"Godwin was generous in opening up her personal collection to the McNay: she loaned a number of important paintings that have not been exhibited for decades. A major loan from the Utah

Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, was selected to enhance the core group," Barilleaux notes. The bold brushwork, aggressive line, and audacious color for which Godwin is known is evident in even the earliest painting in Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions, produced in 1950 before the artist had left her home state of Virginia for New York. The exhibition continues with works created several years later, including paintings that reflect the influence of Godwin’s friend, the dancer Martha Graham. Martha Graham—Lamentation (1956), with its vigorous and inherently dramatic brushwork in blue and black against white, directly refers to the movement of dance, while others, such as Woman (1954), with its black lines and sweeping passages of white and pale yellow, indirectly suggests dancers flying gracefully across a stage.

Several paintings on view reflect Godwin’s time as a student of Hans Hofmann, including

Yellow Figure (1953), which sees the artist using heightened color and a thick impasto to create an architectonic space. A soaring yellow-and-white totemlike form in the center is bolstered by two diagonal red-orange lines that span the height of the canvas on either side of the totem.

The exhibition demonstrates how, later in the decade, Godwin’s brushwork became considerably looser as she experimented with pours and stains in massive canvases such as

Abstraction (1954) and Ode to Kenzo (1955). While the contemplative tone of these works undoubtedly reflects Godwin’s growing interest in Zen Buddhism, the artist retained the human scale and gesture that endowed her paintings with a kind of intimacy.

During the decade and a half covered in this exhibition, Judith Godwin achieved considerable success in New York, showing her works at the Stable Gallery and becoming the youngest woman ever to show at Betty Parsons. Later works in the exhibitions

Into the Depth (1957), and Longing (1958), show Godwin boldly tackling canvases up to eight feet tall.

The Artist

Born in Suffolk, Virginia, Judith Godwin attended Mary Baldwin College; Richmond Professional Institute of the College of William and Mary; The Art Students League of New York; and Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts. Since the early 1950s, her paintings have been exhibited in solo and group presentations, including exhibitions at the Stable Gallery, Section Eleven of the Betty Parsons Gallery, and Marisa del Re Gallery. Godwin’s work is in numerous institutional collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Yale University Art Gallery, among others.

 

The McNay

Built by artist and educator Marion Koogler McNay in the 1920s, the Spanish Colonial Revival-style home opened as Texas’ first museum of modern art in 1954. Today more than 100,000 visitors a year enjoy works by 20th-century masters including Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In June 2008, the museum opened the 45,000-square-foot Jane and Arthur Stieren Center for Exhibition designed by internationally renowned French architect Jean-Paul Viguier. Nearly doubling the McNay’s exhibition space, the Stieren Center includes three separate outdoor sculpture galleries, the first in South Texas.

Beginning June 10, museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am – 4 pm; Thursday, 10 am – 9 pm; Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm; and Sunday, noon – 5 pm. Admission: McNay members – free; Adults -- $8; Students 13 and under -- $5; Seniors -- $5; Active military -- $5; Children 12 and under – free. An additional admission charge applies during select special exhibitions. No charge for general museum admission on Thursdays from 4 to 9 pm and on the first Sunday of the month.

 

 

The McNay is closed on Mondays, New Year’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

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