After a deliciously tenebrous previous two exhibitions, North London‘s Amar Gallery is seeing out the summer with a lighter, less enclosed feel. Gallery owner Amar Singh is ushering a golden age into his Islington space. Or, rather, THE Golden Age.
The latest exhibition – Hiding In Plain Sight – is a female-only affair, celebrating the women considered to have shaped an era of abstract expressionism in America during the mid-20th-century.
Never one to pass up an opportunity to be a pioneer, Amar Gallery’s last exhibition of 2018 is the first time a collection like this has been assembled as one in Europe. Both Singh and exhibition curator Dr. John Paul Rollert (a professor at Chicago University and Harvard – the latter at which he met and taught Singh himself) have not been shy in stamping a clear message upon this collection: that the female artists included deserve to be lauded a lot more than they have been.
This isn’t an unusual message at Amar Gallery. Since its inception in January 2017, the gallery’s bi-annual exhibitions have featured artists representing female rights or the LGBT+ community. This gallery is increasingly becoming the place to be seen if you fall within this remit. It’s a safe house for this art, and is nurtured within its walls. It champions the “underdogs”.
This is how the exhibition’s name came about. When the question “where are all the great women artists?” was asked in the 1970s, the answer was that they were indeed out there. Just hiding. In plain sight. Rather a shame is the fact that the majority of artists featured are actually dead.
Elaine de Kooning – who died in 1989 and would tend to promote her husband Willem’s work rather than her own – provides abstracts of landscape and nature: murkier, frenzied works that somehow pop despite being among the less-colourful pieces in the exhibition.
Helen Frankenthaler provides towering majesty with her abstract Color Field works, while Judith Godwin – still alive and well – takes on the former with her own eye-catching washes of China and cherry blossom pink.
Then there’s the contrastive chaotic works of Amaranth Ehrenhalt and Perle Fine – the former being one of the few living abstract expressionists of the Era, happy to paint brightly, and the latter a moodier artist, a little more in-place in this autumn-time collection.
The result: it’s impossible to sideline these women who have seemingly been “hiding in plain sight”. And leaving Amar Gallery’s latest exhibition, one will be forgiven for asking, even if momentarily, “Jackson who?”
Words by Andrew Bullock
Hiding in Plain Sight: An exhibition celebrating female Abstract Expressionists 1950's and 60's America, until 13 December 2018 at Amar Gallery, 48 Penton Street, London, N1 9QA