Tate Modern will present a major retrospective of the American modernist artist Georgia O’Keeffe, a century after her New York debut. The exhibition is the first important solo institutional exhibition of the artist’s work in the UK for a generation. This ambitious and wide-ranging overview will review O’Keeffe’s work in depth and reassess her place in the canon of twentieth-century art, situating her within artistic circles of her own generation and indicating her influence on artists of subsequent generations.
O’ Keeffe is recognised as a foundational figure of American modernism born in the late 1880s she secured a central place within the mainstream art world from the 1910s to the 1970s. She was also claimed as an important pioneer by feminist artists of the 1970s. A single-minded character who identified her ambition to become an artist when she was still a child, O’Keeffe developed her practice over a seven-decade career.
O’Keeffe excelled as a landscape artist, and this exhibition will relate her practice back through the American tradition of landscape painting, as well as forward to anticipate the gendered landscapes and statements of feminist artists of later generations. For this reason, as well as her enduring engagement with abstraction and landscape, the serialised, increasingly economic and stylised paintings of the southwestern locations called the ‘Black Place’ and the ‘White Place’, will be at the heart of the exhibition.
A key aspect of the exhibition will be to consider O’Keeffe’s professional and personal relationship with Alfred Stieglitz; photographer, modern art promoter and the artist’s husband. While Stieglitz afforded O’Keeffe access to the most current developments in avant-garde art, she employed these influences and opportunities to her own objectives. Her keen intellect, as well as her forceful and resolute character, created a fruitful relationship that was, though sometimes conflictive, one of reciprocal influence and exchange.
The popular notion that O’Keeffe was a simple painter of flowers is a conception she faced during her lifetime. This exhibition will consider these remarkable flower works in the context of her overall production as multi-layered images, relating them to her engagement with abstraction and issues of form and composition, to her complex relationship with gendered imagery, bodily analogy and Freudian interpretations, and to her spiritual engagement with the landscape. Charting the progression of her practice from her early abstract experiments to her late work, this exhibition will re-examine her entire career, her development, her trajectory west, and the profound influence and legacy of her work.