From May 19 to August 23, 2021, Women in Abstraction at the Centre Pompidou in Paris sets out to exhibit the hidden female history of abstraction. More than 500 works by 106 artists from the 1960s to the 1980s. Although female artists’ contributions produced and shaped modernism, the female gaze enjoyed little exposure.

A female history of Abstraction

Women in Abstraction has several premises. First of all, the curators highlighted the educational, historical and social contexts which contributed to women artists’ invisibility. Furthermore, overthrowing reductive artistic hierarchies, abstraction is being presented as a multi-faceted artistic movement.

The beholder explores a broad spectrum of artistic mediums, such as dance, decorative arts, film, painting, performance, photography and textile. Besides, following a global approach, the viewer encounters contributions of female abstractionists from South America, the Middle East, and Asia. In other words, Women in Abstraction decenters pioneering practices and tells a multi-voiced narrative of abstraction. This way, the viewer discovers surprising plastic searches.

Dance and Abstraction

Among many surprising stylistic combinations feature Loie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance and Gret Palucca‘s performances. Using their body as a tool, they create abstract geometrical forms in space. Relying on a complex staging dispositive with colored light projections and on a dress made from bamboo stems to increase her stature, Loie Fuller’s body vanishes in colored fabric. Indeed, the undulatory lines and spirals she produces are mesmerizing. In the same vein, Palucca’s geometrical minimal dances are inspired Wassily Kandinsky’s drawings. In conclusion, the woman’s body who was once objectified is freed to produce forms.

Abstraction and Textile 

On a different note, Women in Abstraction includes monumental textile sculptures produced by female artists from Eastern Europe and the United States. For instance, Magdalena Abakanowicz, whose fiber/textile art is the testament of a mutual influence between weaving and painting.

Harmony Hammond, Floorpiece VI, 1973 
Photo: Jeffrey Sturges 
© Adagp, Paris, 2021 

By contrast, Harmony Hammond‘s wool paintings advocated the vision of a political abstraction. Indeed, her hybrid compositions made from paint and textile embody the bond uniting women belonging to feminist groups. Thereby, her use of a traditional weaving method was an attempt to reconnect with an ancestral tradition of female creativity once only relegated to the rank of minor arts.