Joan Mitchell

There’s always a lot of talk about how Richter’s brushstrokes look like quotes of brushstrokes, one step removed from the real thing, and how all his gestures can be read the same way. Someone like Fiona Rae is up to the same business. This achievement serves to objectify the language of abstraction, but, in my view, Joan Mitchell’s brushstrokes are far more objectified because they are just there, disconcerting in their factuality. In the end, quotation or critical distance may prove to be just too much literature. Mitchell is one of the great formalists, even when, even especially when, there doesn’t seem to be much form in the picture. But all of this does not mean that extra-pictorial reality is not close by.

Joan Mitchell, Sunflowers 1990-91

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