Wild: Women Abstractionists On Nature

Works of remarkable women abstractionists take center stage in the “Wild” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

In the exhibition catalogue for Nature in Abstraction, on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1958, curator John I. H. Baur refines an essential idea: that not all abstract art is purely about form or color. Although on view more than six decades ago, the exhibition remains relevant for its focus on artists who express nature through abstraction.

In the decades since Nature in Abstraction, major, although imperfect, strides have been made to address and rectify gender inequality in the art world.

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The narrative of Abstract Expressionism largely focuses on male artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, even though several of the female counterparts with whom they were working concurrently made work on the same level with the same rigor. Notably, artists such as Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler drew inspiration from nature. Absent from the wider discourse, however, were the abstract artists working outside the context of the Western art world.

Today, in the advent of social media and an increasingly globalized art world, abstract art is back in focus. Named after Cheryl Strayed’s acclaimed memoir, Wild features some of today’s most exciting women abstract artists whose work is inspired by nature, with the idea of nature encompassing environment, cosmos, and body. Several of the artists in the exhibition translate their surroundings through color and form, raising questions about what visual similarities and conceptual differences exist between a group of artists whose practices span East, West, and the diasporic in between.

Artists featured in this exhibition are Sarah Awad, Christine Ay Tjoe, Andrea Marie Breiling, Cecily Brown, Katarina Caserman, Héloïse Chassepot, Nicole Coson, Corinne De San Jose, Wonhee “Whee” Delgado, Mandy El-Sayegh, Camilla Engström, Francesca Enriquez, Jadé Fadojutimi, Katharina Grosse, Jennifer Guidi, Han Bing, Angela Heisch, Donna Huanca, Jin Jeong, Sara Jimenez, Antonia Kuo, Jane Lee, Li Hei Di, Li Yanjun, Kylie Manning, Jo Messer, Elizabeth Neel, Dawn Ng, A’Driane Nieves, Mariana Oushiro, Lauren Quin, Pinaree Sanpitak, Mary Weatherford, and Zhang Zipiao.

Andres and Atasha Muhlach

During the pandemic, Christine Ay Tjoe found inspiration in the concealed roots of large plants around her studio. Cecily Brown often uses gardens and landscapes in her work, an homage to her childhood memories growing up in the English countryside. Sara Jimenez, a Filipino-American artist living in New York, creates abstracted landscapes from colonial American photographs of the Philippines. Mary Weatherford began adding neon tubing to her paintings while working in Bakersfield, California, a desert landscape that coexists with oil derricks, neon signs, and other signs of industry.

The curator of this exhibit is Kathy Huang, an independent curator and Managing Director, Art Advisory and Special Projects at Jeffrey Deitch, where she curated Wonder Women, an exhibition featuring forty Asian diasporic women and non-binary artists working in figuration. She has also organized exhibitions such as Judy Chicago: Los Angeles (2019), Dominique Fung: It’s Not Polite to Stare (2021), and Sasha Gordon: Hands of Others (2022). She was raised in Philadelphia and earned a B. A. from Duke University and an M. A. in Modern & Contemporary Asian Art from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London.

Wild is currently showing at the third floor of the North Gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and will run until June 22, 2024. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila is located at 30th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

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