January 1, 2020
In the catalogue for Autobiography, her first solo exhibition since her 2018 retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Howardena Pindell tells the story of how, in 1979, a car accident on Long Island left her with a long-term concussion that impaired her memory. She turned to painting as a means of recovery, incorporating more of her personal experiences into her professional practice in order to close the gaps in her recollection. (Though not included in the present show, Pindell’s video Free, White and 21, 1980, sprang from the same impulse.) To inaugurate what came to be called her Autobiography series, 1980–2005, the artist sliced up postcards and interspersed their imagery with her own brushwork—an imbrication of painting and photography that blended mechanical reproduction and manual skill along an unevenly textured picture plane.
December 6, 2019
In 1988, Howardena Pindell organized Autobiography: In her Own Image, an exhibition at INTAR Latin American Gallery where she invited 18 women of color artists to present views of themselves “which may not be particularly pleasing to the dominant culture.” She described the work as “neither neutered nor devoid of personal references to gender, race, and class or paradox, conflict, and celebration.” The idea for Pindell’s exhibition came out of her own “Autobiography” series: mixed media works she created between 1980 and 1995, a selection of which are currently featured at Garth Greenan Gallery.
The Autobiography series came about after a near fatal crash in which Pindell sustained severe injuries and memory loss. Early works from this series on view at Garth Greenan bear witness to the artist literally and figuratively piecing together fragments of her past. They testify to the pivotal roles travel, as well as her investigations into alternative philosophies and religions, played in helping heal her internal and external wounds. Prior to her 1979 accident, Pindell was making abstract paintings that were often based on a grid structure and emphasized process to explore nuanced color, light, and movement. After the accident, she made a conscious decision to create work that was more “viscerally” personal, and felt an urgency to address in her art the appalling omission and underrepresentation of women of color that she had experienced firsthand during the ’60s and ’70s. Having survived the accident, she developed a dictum for the series, “You never know. You may wake up dead.”
November 5, 2019
The festive look of these richly textured shaped canvases—blanketed with brightly colored impasto hatching or encrusted with confetti—belie the difficulties that this artist faced in producing them. Pindell’s Autobiography series was made during a fifteen-year period following a car accident, in 1979, from which she suffered serious memory loss. Punctuating the surfaces of these handsome abstractions are seams—fissures, really—bridged by stitches resembling little teeth, and fragments of photographs and postcards. They lend the paint-toughened surfaces a pieced-together fragility and form their swirling and fanning interior structures. The found imagery, emerging from dense areas of acrylic color, includes disembodied hands, a frog, and a statue of Shiva. Neither random nor coherent, the fragments seem to represent the impressionistic puzzle pieces of partial recollection, which the compositions dynamically integrate into a meaningfully illogical whole.
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