Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Painting

February 15, 2019–May 26, 2019


Aftereffect: O’Keeffe and Contemporary Painting brought together a select group of artists whose work resonates with that of Georgia O'Keeffe. From her formal innovations to her ambition to transcribe her ideas and emotions, to her distinctive approach to abstraction and the landscape of New Mexico, O'Keeffe's legacy is identifiable in the work of several generations of painters. These artists share her interest in capturing what Jerry Saltz refers to as the "objective and subjective all at once." That is, in their art, the physical world is neither subjected to, nor victorious over the imagination of the artist, but rather, the two are continuously at play.

The painters gathered in this exhibition explore a set of formal qualities pioneered by O’Keeffe and modernists of her circle. This was not an exhibition that paid homage to O’Keeffe’s “Santa Fe style” or brought together her paintings with those of other artists based on mere iconographic affinities. Rather, it investigated the ways O’Keeffe’s distinctive formal innovations of scale, space, use of color, and framing, among other compositional devices, remain relevant to painters working today. This exhibition was designed to be an artist-driven experience for visitors that seriously assessed—from a very unique angle—contemporary painting and delivered a fresh view of O’Keeffe’s contribution to the history of landscape painting and abstraction.

Inspired by the 2009 exhibition Georgia OKeeffe: Abstraction, the Whitney Museum of American Arts exploration of the artists place in the history of modernist abstraction, Aftereffect initiated an equally overdue assessment of O'Keeffe's lasting influence in the art world today. The artists in the exhibition had found in O'Keeffe's work what the Whitney Museum's exhibition demonstrated: a tradition of modernist painting distinct from Jackson Pollock and the Abstract Expressionists. Aftereffect offered both a reassessment of O'Keeffe's contribution to the history of American painting and introduced fresh ideas about the state of painting today.

In addition to 8 works by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), the exhibition featured recent work by Mary Heilmann (b. 1940, San Francisco), Matt Connors (b. 1973, Chicago), Carrie Moyer (b. 1960, Detroit, Michigan), Mary Weatherford (b. 1963, Ojai, California), Lesley Vance (b. 1977, Milwaukee, Wisconsin), Corey Drieth (b. 1969, Fort Collins, Colorado), Loie Hollowell (b. 1983, Saint Peter, Minnesota), Gretchen Marie Schaefer (b. 1982, Denver), Leslie Smith III (b. 1985, Silver Spring, Maryland), Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972, Colorado), Melissa Thorne (b. 1970, Tallahassee, Florida), and Emily Joyce (b. 1976).

Curated by
Elissa Auther, Windgate Research Curator, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and the Los Angeles-based painter, Emily Joyce

Informative Text

Aftereffect: O’Keeffe and Contemporary Painting was made possible through the generous support of the Fries Exhibition Fund. Additional exhibition support was also provided by Martha and Will Tracey. MCA Denver also thanks the Director's Vision Society and the citizens of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District for their support of the exhibition.