City Landscape,

Joan Mitchell, American, 1925-1992
Oil on canvas
79 1/2 x 79 1/2 inches
Acquired 1958

Although influenced by Abstract Expressionist artists in New York in the early 1950s, Joan Mitchell did not prioritize self-expression: her often exuberant abstractions were "about landscape, not about me," she once explained. Mitchell painted large, light-filled canvases, animate by loosely applied skeins of bright color—here infused with the energy of a large metropolis. In City Landscape, a tangle of pale pink, scarlet, mustard, sienna, and black hues threatens to coagulate or erupt. The title suggests a relationship between this ganglion of pigments and the nerves or arteries of an ubran space. The sense of spontaneity conveyed in City Landscape, however, belies Mitchell's methods. Unlike many of her contemporaries, who were dubbed action painters, Mitchell worked slowly and deliberately. "I paint a little," she said. "Then I sit and look at the painting, sometimes for hours. Eventually, the painting tells me what to do."