Spotlight: Abstract Expressionist Painter Judith Godwin Finally Gets Her Due in a Monographic Exhibition at Berry Campbell

The exhibition features numerous works that have not been on view to the public in more than six decades.

Installation view of "Judith Godwin: Modern Woman" (2023). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

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What You Need to Know: On view through November 18, 2023, Berry Campbell is presenting “Judith Godwin: Modern Woman,” a monographic exhibition delving into the work and practice of the overlooked Abstract Expressionist. Featuring 23 paintings and works on paper dating from between 1954 and 1959, many of the pieces on view have not been seen by the public in more than sixty years. Accompanying the exhibition is an 96-page illustrated monographic publication, with a primary text by editor of the Woman’s Art Journal Aliza Edelman, and contributions by Denver Art Museum Curator Emerita Gwen Chanzit and former Artforum publisher Anthony Korner. The exhibition coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Berry Campbell, highlighting the gallery’s program of promoting post-war American art and artists—and drawing attention artists who have been historically under-appreciated due to their age, race, gender, or location.

About the Artist: Judith Godwin (1930–2021) was born in Virginia and grew up in an environment that fostered creativity and artistic expression. She initially studied at Mary Baldwin College beginning in 1948, but ultimately transferred to the Richmond Professional Institute, which is now known as Virginia Commonwealth University, where she graduated in 1952. The following year, she relocated to New York City where she attended the Art Students League and later studied at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts.

Immersed in the New York art scene, Godwin became acquainted with the some of the biggest names of post-war art, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Frans Kline, as well as other creatives. Spirit – Ode to Martha Graham (1956), included in the present exhibition, conveys Godwin’s close relationship with and esteem for the mid-century dancer and choreographer. In 1960, her work was exhibited by influential dealer Betty Parsons, which was the last time many of her works were shown publicly. Though her oeuvre has received faltering attention in the past, efforts to reappraise the work of disenfranchised artists are increasingly prevalent, and Godwin’s singular approach to abstraction is being rediscovered.

Why We Like It: Being the first time in decades that a solo show has been dedicated solely to Godwin’s work from the 1950s, the exhibition offers an invaluable new look at the seminal Abstract Expressionism (AbEx) movement. Though AbEx is often thought of as well trodden ground, reconsideration of artists who have been systemically omitted from the art historical canon based on facets of their identity continue to present new vantages and considerations of the style and its history. Godwin’s fearless approach to abstraction conveys a deep sense of experimentation and intuitiveness, as well as openness to happenstance. In an Untitled work from ca. 1957, swathes of gestural black paint all but consume the composition, and yet patches of color draw the eye around, and the rapidity of their application can be seen through the series of drips that extend to the bottom of the canvas. Unlike the work of many of her contemporaries, Godwin effortlessly emphasizes emotion, experience, and movement, which become the core themes in her work.

See featured works from the exhibition below.

Judith Godwin, Unknown (ca. 1954). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

Judith Godwin, Hofmann School 1953 10 (1953). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

Judith Godwin, Untitled (ca. 1957). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

Judith Godwin, Series 7 No. 9 (1955). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

Judith Godwin, Untitled (1958). Courtesy of Berry Campbell, New York.

Judith Godwin: Modern Woman” is on view through November 18, 2023.


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