Howardena Pindell is an artist, activist, and educator working through the media of painting, drawing, print and video. Primarily an abstract painter, she emerged in the early 1970s in New York, making process-driven abstractions, embellishing the language of minimalism – of circles, grids and repetition – in a visibly laborious process of hole-punching, spraying, sewing, and numbering. The exhibition is the largest presentation of her work in Europe to date.
Curators Talk: On Friday 13 October at 1.15pm IMMA Director, Annie Fletcher, will give a gallery talk on the work of Howardena Pindell. No booking required. Meeting Point – IMMA Main Reception.
Trained as a figurative painter, Pindell began working abstractly in the 1960s. She started drawing and layering, a process that grew on its own and developed into the abstract works she is known for today. Her growing use of abstraction coincided with the famous “dematerialization” of the art object, the emergence of conceptual art as a movement that prioritized thought over form.
From the 1980s Pindell’s practice began to deal explicitly with issues of racism and discrimination, her work took on a more overtly political tenor, which anticipated the Black Lives Matter movement by thirty years. Pindell deals with issues including colonisation and enslavement, violence against indigenous populations, police brutality, the AIDS crisis and climate change. Her video works tackle the pervasiveness of racial inequality, drawing on Pindell’s own experiences and on her collation of historical data relating to segregation, discrimination and race-based violence in America.
The exhibition includes new paintings fresh from Pindell’s studio, just shown in New York in 2022. These new works show Pindell circling back to some of her concerns of the early 1970s and 80s. Returning to her method of painting using a stencil, her new work quotes from work made half a century ago. Pindell’s work encompasses her own story with abstraction joined to a sense of social and political urgency and an understanding that the pressures, prejudices and exclusions she faced as a black artist and a woman needed to be part of the subject of her art.
This exhibition has its origins in Howardena Pindell: A New Language, organised by the Fruitmarket, Edinburgh in collaboration with Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge and Spike Island, Bristol.
Content Warning: We would like to advise visitors that the two video artworks featured in this exhibition contain graphic imagery and detailed sensory descriptions of historical and recent violence against children and adults, including direct reference to racism experienced by Pindell and her family.
Howardena Pindell, born in Philadelphia in 1943, began her career in the 1960s. Having studied art at Boston and Yale Universities she became an Exhibition Assistant at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1967, rising to Associate Curator and Acting Director, serving on the Byers Committee to investigate racial exclusion in museum acquisitions and exhibitions. She first exhibited her art in 1971, and was a founding member of A.I.R (Artists in Residence), the first women’s cooperative gallery in New York City. In 1979 she began teaching at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, where she is now a distinguished Professor of Art. She rose to prominence throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, and had her first major solo exhibition at the Studio Museum, Harlem in 1986.
In 1992, Howardena Pindell: A Retrospective, her first solo touring exhibition, brought her art and writing together and in 1997, she published The Heart of the Question, an anthology of her written works. She was included in WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007; in We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 at the Brooklyn Museum, New York and Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power at Tate both in 2017; and The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presented her first major US survey exhibition, Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen in 2018. In 2020, an exhibition of new work at The Shed, New York showed recent work against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and growing international outrage at anti-Black state violence in the US and elsewhere, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
Coinciding with the exhibition A Renewed Language, this talk examines some of the most inspiring works of figuration, abstraction and conceptualism by Howardena Pindell. This keynote talk, by Naomi Beckwith, Chief Curator, Guggenheim, NYC, offers a reflection on lesser-known feminist art histories and identity politics that underpins the arc of Pindell’s extraordinary life and varied career as artist, curator and educator.
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