Alexander Gray Associates is pleased to debut recent self-portraits by Joan Semmel, in the gallery’s first solo exhibition with this acclaimed artist. Working consistently with figurative painting for over four decades, Semmel is primarily associated with the establishment of the Feminist art movement in the 1970s.
In the exhibition at Alexander Gray Associates, recent paintings continue the artist’s exploration of self-portraiture and female identity. The selected works represent the artist’s body, doubled, fragmented, and in-motion. Dissolving the space between artist and model, viewer and subject, these paintings are notable for their celebration of color and flesh. Soft and milky colors provide background for the luminous skin tones Semmel captures, as figure and ground merge. In many of the works, the artist confronts the viewer with a direct gaze, a departure from iconic earlier works in which the point of view that remained within the canvas itself.
About her work, Semmel has noted, “Much of the revolutionary nature of Feminist art has been a seeking for new forms to invent a voice free of the dominant patriarchal tradition of the past. I have tried to find a contemporary language in which I could retain my delight in the sensuality and pleasure of painting, and still confront the particulars of my own personal experience as a woman. My intention has been to subvert the tradition of the passive female nude. The issues of the body from desire to aging, as well as those of identity and cultural imprinting have been at the core of my concerns. Sexuality for women has changed radically in the last century, and the possibility for female autonomy is connected to these changes.”