Its seems that both Joan Mitchell and Mary Heilman are showing at Hauser and Wirth in London right now, in fact both of them are topics of intense discussion among the community interested in abstraction. I’m still working on my Heilman posts, and can’t resist another mention of Mitchell. Over the last few days I’ve finally realized what always attracted me to her work, and at the same time if not exactly repelled me at least established a distance. She was a highly conscious artist in a free, open, formless idiom. Her diptychs make sense as perhaps the simplest form of organization, but even though the masses of color seem at first glance conventionally chaotic, her consciousness can be felt right down to the level of the individual stroke, allowing that in the language that she uses some strokes at least are supposed to be unmotivated, floating in their own space.
In other words, though they have a necessary arbitrariness the works aren’t totally possessed by a general effect. The point may be arguable and the distinction difficult to see, but I think it can be felt.