Ninth Street Women
NINTH STREET WOMEN is the impassioned, wild, sometimes tragic, always exhilarating story of five women who dared to enter the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting--not as muses but as artists. From their cold-water lofts, where they painted, drank, fought, and loved, these pioneers burst open the door to the…
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Why read it?
4 authors picked Ninth Street Women as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?
Mary Gabriel, an incredible storyteller, does a masterful job uncovering the extraordinary lives and artistic contributions of five very different Abstract Expressionist painters: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler. I’ve done a lot of research on this movement with a particular focus on Elaine de Kooning, but I never felt that Gabriel was rehashing the same material. With her engaging style of writing, she brings a fresh perspective to a story that needed to be told. This group of women artists has largely been left out of the canonical versions of Abstract Expressionism. Some…
The “Action Painting” movement by American artists in the 1950s wrote a new chapter in art and has been widely identified with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and other male painters. The revelation to me of this book is the degree to which they were influenced in their work and lives by the women artists of their time who only now are being finally acknowledged as their equals. In Gabriel’s richly detailed epic of the hedonistic downtown art scene in the 1950s and 1960s five highly talented and innovative women painters come alive along with the Beat era…
Midcentury women abstract expressionists finally get their due in Mary Gabriel’s tour de force of art history and cultural journalism. Gabriel recenters sidelined stories as she deftly interweaves the lives of Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Elaine de Kooning—and their sometimes tempestuous relationships with male artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning—in prose that never feels heavy or dutiful. Gabriel’s passion for her subject is clear on every page.
Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women is the best group biography I’ve read. Her protagonists are the women who made up half of Abstract Expressionism, and theirs is a careering, headlong story about how to revolutionise a tradition, the courage to create – and the life of the artist in mid-twentieth century ‘straight’ American society. Gabriel writes with extraordinary charm and – vitally – she’s consummate at keeping the lives of her multiple protagonists both clear and intertwined.
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