Magnetic Fields marks the first U.S. presentation dedicated exclusively to the formal and historical dialogue of abstraction by women artists of color.
In the June 2014 ARTnews article “Black Abstraction: Not a Contradiction,” Hilarie M. Sheets aptly notes, “The contributions of African American artists to the inventions of abstract [art] have historically been overlooked…” Magnetic Fields expands this historical conception with a focus on non-representational art making by women artists of color. In so doing, it reframes the art historical narrative to convey a more complete presentation of American abstraction than has ever previously been examined. Intergenerational in scope, Magnetic Fields presents a select group of prolific creators born between 1891 (Alma Thomas) and 1981 (Abigail DeVille) whose work demands deeper examination and collectively demonstrates a broader interpretation of American abstract art making from the last half-century.
The exhibition introduces the work of twenty-one exceptional artists in conversation with one another for the first time. With works in a range of media, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and drawing, the exhibition showcases a diverse range of unique visual vocabularies within non-representational expression. By highlighting the artists’ individual approaches to form, color, composition, material exploration and conceptual impetus within hard-edge and gestural abstraction, Magnetic Fields provides an expanded history of non-pictorial image- and object-making.
"Magnetic Fields amplifies the lives and work of twenty-one extraordinary artists whose dedication to non-representational art making contributes to the reframing of American abstraction,” said Director of Curatorial Affairs, Erin Dziedzic. “Intergenerational in scope, the exhibition is conceptually grounded in illuminating the formal conversations amongst the artists' works from the 1960s to the present."
Magnetic Fields features a range of works, including early and later career examples, those of specific series, several exhibited for the first time, and the long- awaited reappearance of iconic works such as Mavis Pusey’s large-scale painting Dejygea (1970) in The Whitney’s 1971 exhibition Contemporary Black Artists In America. Also drawn in part from the Kemper Museum’s Permanent Collection, the exhibition features Chakaia Booker’s rubber tire sculpture El Gato (2001).
An exhibition advisory group has been assembled to engage in broader dialogue throughout the planning of the exhibition. A variety of thought-provoking educational programming has been designed to complement the themes within Magnetic Fields, and will be offered free of charge to engage learners of all ages. A complete list of Museum programs and times relating to this exhibition can soon be found at kemperart.org.
Candida Alvarez (b. 1955)
Chakaia Booker (b. 1953)
Lilian Thomas Burwell (b. 1927)
Nanette Carter (b. 1954)
Barbara Chase-Riboud (b. 1939)
Deborah Dancy (b. 1949)
Abigail DeVille (b. 1981)
Maren Hassinger (b. 1947)
Jennie C. Jones (b. 1968)
Evangeline “EJ” Montgomery (b. 1930)
Mary Lovelace O’Neal (b. 1942)
Howardena Pindell (b. 1943)
Mavis Pusey (b. 1928)
Shinique Smith (b. 1971)
Gilda Snowden (b. 1954, d. 2014)
Sylvia Snowden (b. 1942)
Kianja Strobert (b. 1980)
Betty Blayton Taylor (b. 1937, d. 2016)
Alma Thomas (b. 1891, d. 1978)
Mildred Thompson (b. 1936, d. 2003)
Brenna Youngblood (b. 1979)