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Marilyn Minter on Joan Mitchell’s Nasty, Chilly Colours

‘She has such authority in her tangled daubs and streaks’

mitchell_merci_1992.jpg

Joan Mitchell, Merci (Thank You), 1992, oil on canvas (diptych), 2.8 x 3.6 m. Courtesy: Joan Mitchell Foundation and © Estate of Joan Mitchell

I decided to write about Joan Mitchell because, as a teacher, I am always looking for examples of artists who work in a totally different way than I do. Personally, I am only interested in these artists. I am very critical of most realist painters and it gives me immense joy to look at great art that I can’t do.

Mitchell blows me away with her nasty, chilly colours. (I mean, really, who paints with bright orange next to brilliant blue and doesn’t create muddy colour in the transition?) She has such authority in her tangled daubs and streaks – in where she allows the paint to drip and run. She really goes with the flow. She knows where to cancel out extraneous marks and sections with an overlay of white, but not the white of the gessoed canvas. She wants you to see the different whites electrifying the empty space. She wants you to see the thoughtfulness and decision-making, leaving a bit of the under- painting showing through. I am the opposite: a labour-intensive control freak, building my paintings with multiple layers. I could keep building a depth of field for days on end. Mitchell’s love of painting rings so true; her struggle is mesmerizing.

Published in Frieze Masters, issue 7, 2018, with the title ‘Artist's Artists’.

Marilyn Minter lives in New York, USA. Her travelling retrospective opened in 2015 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, USA, and closed in 2017 at the Brooklyn Museum, USA.

Issue 7

First published in Issue 7

September 2018
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