Mnuchin Gallery is proud to present Joan Mitchell—Christine Ay Tjoe: an exhibition which sparks a dialogue between, Joan Mitchell and Christine Ay Tjoe, two trailblazers of 20th and 21st century abstraction. On view from February 9 until March 18, 2023, the exhibition features masterworks by both artists from prominent private collections.
Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) moved to New York in 1949 and quickly forged a reputation as a preeminent member of the New York School, participating in the landmark “Ninth Street Show” of 1951. Having lived between New York and Paris for several years, Mitchell made the decision to relocate to France in 1959 and later settled in the countryside town of Vétheuil in 1968. Engaging with American and European artistic perspectives, while remaining beholden to neither, Mitchell developed a singular abstract idiom that wed properties of nature, poetry, and deep emotion with lyrical and powerful gestures. As she explained, “I’m not involved with ‘isms’ or what’s à la mode. I’m very old fashioned, but not reactionary. My paintings aren’t about art issues. They’re about a feeling that comes to me from the outside, from landscape." Mitchell’s artistic activity was prompted by memory and sensation––she transferred these stimuli onto the canvas through abstract whips of paint which appear as natural and fluid as her sources themselves.
Christine Ay Tjoe (1973) was born in Bandung, the capital of Indonesia’s West Java province, where she continues to live and work. Her aesthetic sensibility is evolved from the environmental and the socio-cultural diversity of Southeast Asia. Working with oil sticks, Ay Tjoe builds layers of intricately abstract forms that evoke a sense of the natural world. She often uses her hands to energetically manipulate and work this medium into the canvas. Hers, like Mitchell’s, is intensely physical work, and her vigorous application of materials functions as a physical manifestation of her most intimate feelings. Her gestural practice seeks to capture the emotions at the marrow of all existence and her paintings use spirituality, religious mythology, and nature as a gateway to understanding the psychological underpinnings of the human condition.
These two distinct artists use alternative means to address the same question: “What does it mean to make an abstract painting?” Mitchell and Ay Tjoe both engage with the canvas using a bevy of brushstrokes that vary in degrees of strength and depth. Through this process, they yield deeply introspective paintings that simultaneously allude to the real world with playful titles and harmonic color palettes. The paintings presented in Joan Mitchell–Christine Ay Tjoe underscore how these artists draw from their environments and cultures, as they ultimately seek to transcend generational boundaries and prescribed definitions of Eastern and Western artistic traditions.
1 Joan Mitchell and Marcia Tucker, Joan Mitchell (Whitney Museum of American Art, 1974), 6.