Susan Weil: A Pioneering Figure in Abstract Expressionism

Sundaram Tagore Gallery recently announced a captivating retrospective showcasing the remarkable oeuvre of Susan Weil, an influential American artist born in 1930 in New York.

This exhibition honours her exceptional contributions to the art world, spanning over seventy years. Despite being overshadowed by male painters during the dominance of Abstract Expressionism, Weil’s innovative work and artistic vision have stood the test of time.

Susan Weil: A Pioneering Figure in Abstract Expressionism

Pushing Boundaries: Weil’s Role in Abstract Expressionism

As a pioneering female figure in Abstract Expressionism, Weil boldly pushed the boundaries of this art movement. Her artworks, now housed in prestigious institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, along with London’s V & A, demonstrate her significant impact on the art world.

Despite facing overshadowing by her male counterparts, the narrative of modern and contemporary art is gradually rewriting history to highlight the art-historical importance of Weil’s prolific and wildly creative body of work.

A Gallerist’s Perspective: Recognizing Unsung Women Artists

Sundaram Tagore Gallery owner, Sundaram Tagore, fondly remembers signing Susan Weil as the first artist when he opened his New York gallery in 2000. In his words, “Great work is great work,” and he has been committed to representing unsung women artists from the New York school over the past 23 years.

Challenging the notion that Western men dominate collectable art, Tagore considers it his privilege to introduce Weil’s captivating creations to wider audiences.

Highlights of the Exhibition

Among the exhibition highlights are a wistful watercolour portrait from 1950 and an abstract landscape painted with vivid shades of green in 1969. An essential theme that Weil has explored throughout her career is nebulous human forms, expressing time and its relation to nature and the human figure in motion.

Susan Weil: A Pioneering Figure in Abstract Expressionism

An iconic part of Weil’s collection is her blueprint works, dating back to 1949 and continuing to the present. Utilizing a monoprint process she experimented with since childhood, Weil introduced this technique to Robert Rauschenberg, leading to their collaboration on a series of blueprints until 1951.

Visitors to the exhibition will also be captivated by tactile sculptural formations. Weil’s technique involves using draped or crumpled canvas painted on both sides with bold colours. Inspired by the sensuous folds found in Renaissance art, she has explored this approach for decades through her Soft Folds series.

Ever the experimenter, Susan Weil has specially crafted several pieces for this exhibition, showcasing her new technique of fracturing the picture plane. She achieves this by creating controlled cracks in glass and mirrors. In “Quarter Past Four,” a quadriptych glass grid, Weil accentuates the fissures by filling them with white grout, emphasizing their circular shape. The single mirrored panel further immerses the viewer in the artwork, a testament to the artist’s lifelong commitment to innovation.

Susan Weil: A Pioneering Figure in Abstract Expressionism

Weil and the New York School: A Revolutionary Journey

Weil’s artistic journey began at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she studied under Josef Albers in 1948 and 1949. The college acted as a rural mecca for artists, composers, and choreographers, providing a revolutionary platform for creative minds from diverse fields to collaborate and explore various mediums.

Moving to New York in 1949, Weil became an integral part of the city’s vibrant art scene and the New York School. Surrounded by influential figures like Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage, Weil’s impact extended far beyond American borders, influencing artists worldwide.

Embracing Figuration and Experimentation

Weil’s versatility as an artist was evident during the height of Abstract Expressionism, where she fearlessly embraced figuration and incorporated real-world references from nature, literature, photographs, and her personal history. Her artistic expressions vividly captured intangible aspects of time and movement, often deconstructing and reconstructing images to create multi-dimensional works.

Susan Weil: A Pioneering Figure in Abstract Expressionism

Consistently experimenting with materials, Weil’s repertoire included found objects, metal, paper, Plexiglas, repurposed textiles, recycled canvas, and wood. Her dynamic and playful results, such as crumpled, cut, and refigured compositions, invited viewers to contemplate multiple perspectives simultaneously, engaging them in an enriching visual experience.

In conclusion, Susan Weil’s exceptional contributions to Abstract Expressionism and her fearless pursuit of artistic experimentation have rightfully earned her a place in the annals of art history. This retrospective exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery celebrates Weil’s enduring legacy and invites art enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the compelling world of her artistic vision and creativity.