The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University presents the first major retrospective of eminent American artist, curator, and teacher Howardena Pindell, who for nearly five decades has explored the intersection of art and activism.
Co-curated Naomi Beckwith and Valerie Cassel Oliver and organized by the MCA Chicago, What Remains To Be Seen spans the New York-based artist’s career, featuring early figurative paintings, pure abstraction and conceptual works, as well as personal and political art that emerged in the aftermath of a life threatening car accident in 1979.
On view February 1 through May 19, 2019, the exhibition traces themes and visual experiments that run throughout Pindell’s work up to the present. Howardena Pindell will be in conversation with Beckwith, Cassel Oliver, and the Rose Art Museum’s Assistant Curator Caitlin Julia Rubin on February 2.
“We are thrilled to welcome Howardena Pindell back to the Rose 25 years after we first hosted a retrospective of her work,” said Luis A. Croquer, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator at the Rose. “Her exceptional and pioneering career-partnered with a boundless material inventiveness as well as insistent and valiant focus on equity and diverse representation within the art world-invites us to confront the pressing issues of our times.”
Trained as a painter, Pindell (American, b. 1943) has challenged the staid traditions of the art world and asserted her place in its history as a woman and one of African descent. Since the 1960s, she has used unconventional materials such as glitter, talcum powder, sewing thread, and perfume to expand the boundaries of the rigid tradition of paintings on rectangular, stretched canvas. Her work is infused with traces of her labor, creating rich, layered surfaces by obsessively affixing dots of pigment and paper circles made with an ordinary hole punch onto the surfaces of her paintings. Despite the effort exerted in the creation of these works, Pindell’s use of rich colors and unconventional materials gives the finished paintings a sumptuous and ethereal quality.
Pindell often employs lengthy, metaphorical processes of destruction/reconstruction. She cuts canvases in strips and sews them back together, building up surfaces in elaborate stages. She paints or draws on sheets of paper, punches out dots from the paper using a paper hole punch, drops the dots onto her canvas, and finally squeegees paint through the “stencil” left in the paper from which she had punched the dots. Almost invariably, her paintings are installed unstretched, held to the wall merely by the strength of a few finishing nails. The artist’s fascination with gridded, serialized imagery, along with surface texture appears throughout her oeuvre. Even in her later, more politically charged work, Pindell reverts to these thematic focuses in order to address social issues of homelessness, AIDs, war, genocide, sexism, xenophobia, and apartheid.
The work she has created since 1979, when a car accident left her with short-term amnesia, engages the world beyond the painting studio. Expanding on the experimental formal language she previously developed, Pindell has explored a wide range of subject matter, from the personal and diaristic to the social and political. Her Autobiography series transforms postcards from her global travels, which she used to reconstruct her memories, into photo-based collages. Other bodies of work, such as her Rambo series, respond to broader cultural concerns and critique sexism, racism, and discrimination at large.
The exhibition also highlights Pindell’s work with photography, film, and performance, media she has used to explore her place in the world as an African American, a feminist and an activist. Her chance-based experiments include photographing her drawings juxtaposed over a television screen, as well as Free, White, and 21 (1980), a video performance based on her personal experiences of racism. What Remains To Be Seen also includes recent work by Pindell, which continues to draw on the beauty and innovation of her approach to abstraction while building upon contemporary conversations around equity and diversity.
The Rose Art Museum’s presentation is a major return of the artist to the museum: in 1993, the Rose hosted Howardena Pindell: A Retrospective, 1972-1992. Decades later, What Remains To Be Seen-the most comprehensive exhibition of her work to date-explores the continued arc of Pindell’s career, celebrating her singular vision and its enduring imprint on contemporary art.
Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen is organized by Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition is co-curated by Naomi Beckwith, Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and former Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. The Rose Art Museum presentation is organized by Assistant Curator Caitlin Julia Rubin.
Born in Philadelphia in 1943, Howardena Pindell studied painting at Boston University and Yale University. After graduating, she accepted a job in the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books at the Museum of Modern Art, where she remained for 12 years (1967-1979). In 1979, she began teaching at the State University of New York, Stony Brook where she is now a full professor. Throughout her career, Pindell has exhibited extensively. Notable solo-exhibitions include: Spelman College (1971, Atlanta), A.I.R. Gallery (1973, 1983, New York), Just Above Midtown (1977, New York), Lerner-Heller Gallery (1980, 1981, New York), The Studio Museum in Harlem (1986, New York), the Wadsworth Atheneum (1989, Hartford), Cyrus Gallery (1989, New York), G.R. N’Namdi Gallery (1992, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2006, Chicago, Detroit, and New York), Garth Greenan Gallery, New York (2014), and Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta (2015).
Howardena Pindell’s work has been featured in many landmark museum exhibitions, such as: Contemporary Black Artists in America (1971, Whitney Museum of American Art), Rooms (1976, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center), Another Generation (1979, The Studio Museum in Harlem), Afro-American Abstraction (1980, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center), The Decade Show: Frameworks of Identity in the 1980s (1990, New Museum of Contemporary Art), and Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African-American Women Artists (1996, Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta).
Most recently, Pindell’s work appeared in: Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980, (2017, Met Breuer, New York); We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-1985 (2017, the Brooklyn Museum, New York), Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964-1980 (2006, The Studio Museum in Harlem), High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967-1975 (2006, Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Greensboro), WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles), Target Practice: Painting Under Attack, 1949-1978 (2009, Seattle Art Museum), Black in the Abstract: Part I, Epistrophy (2013, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston), and Painting 2.0: Expression in the Information Age, (2015-2016, Museum Brandhorst; 2016, Museum Moderner Kunst).
Pindell’s work is in the permanent collections of major museums internationally, including: the Brooklyn Museum; the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Rose Art Museum, Waltham: The Studio Museum in Harlem; the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.
Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen, a fully illustrated monograph of the artist’s paintings, drawings, works on paper and video work, accompanies the exhibition. The publication includes original essays by the show’s curators Naomi Beckwith and Valerie Cassel Oliver, along with essays by MCA Curatorial Assistant Grace Deveney and scholars Charles Gaines, Brian Wallis, and Lowery Stokes-Sims. The catalogue is the first to span the artist’s career and includes previously published essays and artist statements by Pindell, in addition to a discussion with Marilyn Minter, Lorna Simpson, and Molly Zuckerman-Hartung that concentrates on Pindell’s formal devices.