Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70

Whitechapel Gallery, London
9 February - 7 May 2023

Bringing together a vast collection of paintings by an overlooked generation of 81 women artists, this exhibition explores the roots of Abstract Expressionism that were growing across the world in the 20th century.

Abstract Expressionism is widely thought to have originated in the USA, but this exhibition highlights that artists from all over the world were working with abstract techniques and themes in the aftermath of the Second World War.

150 paintings by international artists will be on display with a core focus on women working in gestural abstraction – distinctive in style due to the use of expressive and vigorous mark-making. Well-known American artists from the Abstract Expressionism movement such as Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler will be displayed along lesser-known names such as Mozambican-Italian artist Bertina Lopes and South Korean artist Wook-kyung Cho. Seeing these artists displayed together demonstrates how abstraction was interpreted across the world in the 20th century, with each artist bringing their own cultural contexts to their work – from the rise of fascism in South America and East Asia to the influence of Communism in Eastern Europe and China.

The exhibition ultimately seeks to present work outside of the traditional circle of white, male painters primarily associated with Abstract Expressionism and explore themes such as materiality, freedom, perception and gesture that were recurring time and time again in the work of artists around the world. Over half of the works in the exhibition have never-before been seen in the UK.

Why you should go

  • Discover key artists whose contributions to Abstract Expressionism has long been overlooked

  • Explore the seminal women artists shaking up modern art after the Second World War

  • See paintings that have never been seen before in the UK

IndividualTiana Clarke Please note this is an example card and not a reflection of the final product

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