For more than sixty years, Virginia-born artist Judith Godwin has explored abstract painting, recording motion and gesture with brushstrokes on canvas. Her dynamic compositions, layered with drips and splatters of paint, epitomize the “action painting” of the 1950s. Yet, when Godwin moved to New York in 1953, few women had gained acceptance in the art world, particularly those who were abstract painters. The paintings in this exhibition span the length of Godwin’s career, from the mid-20th to the early 21st century, demonstrating her remarkably persistent commitment to establishing and expanding her own abstract language.
Gesture also places Godwin’s work within the context of gestural paintings by a diverse group of artists in VMFA’s collection such as Adolph Gottlieb, Norman Lewis, Benjamin Wigfall, Hedda Sterne, James Brooks, Theodoros Stamos, and Joan Mitchell. By drawing attention to the multiplicity of artists who used abstraction for an array of purposes, this exhibition pushes the traditional boundaries of Abstract Expressionism and showcases the wide reaches of its legacy.