Women’s History Month in New York announces two amazing female artists whose long and inspiring careers are celebrations of feminism and creativity. Maggi Hambling Real-Time Marlborough Gallery Maggi Hambling suffered a heart attack last week on the eve of her first solo exhibition in New York. Seventy-six-year-old Hambling was in Manhattan staying with her friends, artist Cecily Brown and writer Nicolai Ouroussoff when she collapsed. She is currently hospitalized and expected to make a full recovery.
I try to paint death with as much life as possible – MH
Hambling is one of Britain’s most important and controversial artists. His ‘Real Time’ exhibition at New York’s Marlborough Gallery (March 10-April 30) features two major new groups of paintings alongside works from his famous Walls of Water paintings from a decade ago. The exhibition marks a long-awaited debut in New York, where she lived for a short time in 1969.
In her first solo exhibition in New York, Maggi Hambling shows American audiences her mastery that has captivated the English art world for many decades. Known as a brilliant portrait painter, her 1997 sculpture of Oscar Wilde in central London sparked controversy by having the author sit in a sarcophagus, smoking a cigarette.
This exhibition revolves around the “Wall of Water” series, monumental gestural portraits of turbulent waves. An indigo palette, interspersed with touches of purple or orange, captures the ecstasy of a rolling sea. Hambling is an artist who has always been unafraid of beauty or emotion, and the full force of her bold brands is on display here. The textural power and chromatic volume of “Wall of Water V” embody an explosive band of bubbling cold sea.
2021 is the year Hambling created large long paintings, the Edge series. The rhythmic abstractions recall the vertical swirls of the Chinese landscape, the linear narration transforming into transcendental space. Sleek tendrils of dripping paint await a breeze, sinuous lines capturing suspended motion.
The central vortices can be thought of as a pulsating tree of life or as the whirlwind of cosmic nebulae.
The second floor displays Maggi’s Menagerie, first alluded to in the first floor’s “Edge XVI”, the ghostly naked figure of a polar bear personifying catastrophic climate change. Helpless pachyderms, abandoned baby elephants, a lion stretched out and locked up herald a disturbing reality of nature. The later version of 2021’s “Polar Bear” again depicts the endangered creature trapped in an eroding landscape. With a power of chiaroscuro, Hambling’s sure and abbreviated brushstrokes depict animals on the brink of extinction.
The title of the show deals with the human condition and the artist said, “I try to paint death with as much life as possible. This exhibition responds magnificently to his creative vision.
Faith Ringgold American People The New Museum
The long-awaited major retrospective of artist, activist and New York native Faith Ringgold seems almost worth the wait. Three floors of the new museum detail Ringgold’s premonitory and prolific career. Early figurative paintings from the 1950s and 1960s bucked the trend towards abstraction while exploring racial and feminist issues. Depicting beatniks, race relations, and women, Ringgold’s figures reflect an American spectrum, the actual title of a work depicting a row of faces, ranging from dark ebony to Caucasian.
In 1969, Ringgold was part of a protest against the Museum of Modern Art, demanding the inclusion of black artists and the expansion of the Museum into surrounding New York communities. The bold 60s graphics supported Angela Davis and the Black Panther Party, and the offset lithograph political posters are treasures. Another highlight is the inclusion of three large-scale murals, including the 1971 “For the Women’s House” created for Rikers Island Women’s Prison. “A Feminist Series” from 1972, inspired by Tibetan tankas, shows the artist’s early inclusion of sewn fabric borders, quilts and paintings, leading to the 1990s quilt works most associated with Ringgold. “A Feminist Series” features naked women against a tropical backdrop, including a proud pregnant figure who locks her fantastical, unblinking eyes with the viewer.
Story’s dense, gorgeous quilts with text are set in a crowded Harlem building, or preacher-filled cotton fields, to odes to Josephine Baker with banana-skirted beauties. “The French Collection” is made up of twelve quilts representing a young black artist and mother traveling in France, with gems like “Danse au Louvre”, young girls twirling under the gaze of the Mona Lisa.
Also included are original illustrations from the classic and beloved children’s book “Tar Beach”.
In her ninth decade, the artist continues to work as an iconic and inspiring artist. Faith Ringgold’s expansive vision, tenacity and exuberance have never been more needed.
Maggi Hambling Gallery in Marlborough live up to
Faith Ringgold American People The New Museum Until June 5