Grace Hartigan

Shattering Boundaries: Grace Hartigan

 by Drew Martin

I just watched Grace Hartigan: Shattering Boundaries. It is a documentary about Hartigan, who was one of the first artists to recognize the quality and vitality of abstract expressionism and was part of a community of poets and painters in New York City that went beyond collaboration. Her own work merged figuration and the methodology from abstract expression.

Hartigan (March 28, 1922 — November 15, 2008) claims in the film, that the large scale of American abstract expressionist paintings came from movies…seeing the large heads on the silverscreen, which she recalls as early as 5, had a profound effect on visual artists.

Hartigan posed nude for 95 cents an hour at the Art Student League to make ends meet but stopped because she said it was difficult to discuss and defend her work while naked.

Hartigan contacted and visited Jackson Pollock after his first drip show and commented…

There was then that tremendous feeling that there wasn’t just that activity, and you weren’t just making an object. That whatever it is in the unknown in the self is deeply involved with the work.

Hartigan was very much a part of that tight knit artist community in New York City. It was said that there was a struggle of ego and insecurity. Ego, because these artists had stolen the art world fire from Paris and felt as if they were changing the world. Insecurity, because they wondered if it really mattered.

When asked in the more commercial era of Warhol how she would like to be called the mother of Pop Art she replied…

I would rather be the precursor of a movement that I hate than a second generation of a movement that I love.


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