As one flies over New York or Chicago they are often struck by the sheer size and height of the buildings that stretch towards the sky. They are multi-layered symbols of America which include wealth, power, innovation and architecture. Tourists crane their necks to get a better look, and in the process give themselves away. Visitors are left with a long-lasting impression, and often a second or third experience does little to temper their enthusiasm and awe. And yet, after all of this concrete and steel, the thing that leaves the most lasting impact and effect on those who have travelled around America is its large areas of unspoiled nature. The artist Georgia O'Keefe, not only one of America's great artists of the 20th Century but of the entire world during the interwar years, perhaps best captured this juxtaposition of man versus nature which is America.
Though well-known for her cityscapes, Ms. O'Keeffe is most admired for her simple, yet complicated portraits of flowers, and later paintings of relics and objects found in the New Mexico desert. Interestingly, she did both the cityscapes and flower paintings at roughly the same point in her career, the 1920's, and demonstrated a remarkable talent for depicting these seemingly unconnected motifs masterfully. And therein lays her real genius. With her portrayals of both the skyline of New York as well as the fibers of a flower petal, Ms. O'Keeffe encapsulated the sometimes contradictory reality of America in the 1920's. She was able to show that America could be all things to all people.
Due to myriad circumstances her work is not known much outside of the USA. Showings outside of North America were infrequent at best, and her style was considered too optimistic in an age of pessimism here in Europe during the Modern and post-Modern periods. Today her work is being rediscovered as Europe enters a more hopeful epoch. There is an exhibition of over 75 of her works in many mediums and some odd 50 photographs from her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, in Munich that should not be missed, even if you are only a once in a while art patron. Her style is upbeat, easy on the eyes and needs little explanation.
The show is running till 13.05.2012 at:
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung
80333 Munich, Germany
Tel. 49 (0) 89/22 44 12
Fax 49 (0) 89/29 16 09 81