"Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game" is First-ever Career Retrospective of Iconic Painter
(Philadelphia – October 27, 2021)—The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents the first-ever retrospective of iconic painter Joan Semmel in a career-spanning exhibition, Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game, October 28, 2021 through April 3, 2022.
With over 50 works that will trace the artist’s career from early abstract-expressionist paintings through her movement-defining feminist art to the vital work that she is still making of her own mature body today, Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game focuses on four main themes: erotic abstraction, the self, expressive figuration and photography and painting. Spanning five decades of work, the exhibition reveals a strong counter narrative of the traditional telling of the history of painting in the United States from the late 1960s to today. This exhibition will bring together almost sixty years of Semmel’s groundbreaking paintings, including important institutional loans; a selection of her rarely-seen drawings and collages; and a robust grouping of her current work, which foregrounds the exhibition in her still very active studio practice. Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game is conceived and organized by PAFA Curator of Contemporary Art Jodi Throckmorton.
“The staying power of Semmel’s work over her career has proven that she is an important artist deserving much broader recognition,” says Jodi Throckmorton. “Semmel’s work has influenced generations of artists who similarly seek to overthrow the dominant narratives that shape the history of painting. This comprehensive study of her work will definitively demonstrate her place within the canon and the profound effect she continues to have on art being made today. At the age of 89, Joan Semmel is finally getting her due.”
Retrospective exhibitions often historicize older artists whose careers are far from over. In recognition of Semmel’s still very active studio practice, this exhibition will begin and end with the artist’s most recent work. This loop allows for an examination of her career rooted in the present, while revealing one of the unique aspects of Semmel’s work—that each painting in itself is a retrospective of those that came before it. This has never been more apparent than in her recent work where one notes the presence of her abstract paintings in the 1960s; the transfer from photographs of her body into paint; and the use of expressionist, non-naturalistic color that she began with her “sex paintings” in the early 1970s.
Semmel’s investigations of self resonate with artists interested in sex, identity, and the continued viability of painting as a contemporary medium. In Semmel’s own words: “I do not pretend to address the problems of all women in the world. My work is personal and I speak for myself. Women artists have to speak for themselves and then unite to fight the political fight.”
Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game is accompanied by public programming throughout the run of the exhibition and a major exhibition catalog featuring essays by Dr. Amelia Jones, a curator, theorist, and historian of art and performance; Dr. Rachel Middleman, author of Radical Eroticism: Women, Art, and Sex in the 1960s; and PAFA Curator of Contemporary Art Jodi Throckmorton.
About the Artist
Joan Semmel was born in the Bronx, NY in 1932, and currently lives and works in New York, NY. Semmel studied at The Cooper Union, The Art Students League of New York, and Pratt Institute, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1963. After working for seven years in Spain, she returned to Pratt Institute and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1972 and began teaching at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Maryland Institute of Art.
Joan Semmel’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken, Germany (2018); Jewish Museum, New York (2018); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2016); Dallas Contemporary, TX (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC (2014); Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen, Germany (2013); Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (2013); Jewish Museum, New York (2010); Museum of Modern Art Arnhem, The Netherlands (2009); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007); National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (2007); and Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX (2006); among others.
Semmel’s paintings are part of the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Orange County Museum of Art, CA; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; the Jocelyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; the Jewish Museum, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA; among others.
She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award (2013), Anonymous Was a Woman (2008), and National Endowment for the Arts awards (1985 and 1980). She is Professor Emeritus of Painting at Rutgers University.
Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner. Learn more at PAFA.org/about.
Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Generous support provided by the Green Family Art Foundation. Additional support provided by Linda Lee Alter, Jane and Casey Brandt, Howard Sacks and Vesna Todorović Sacks and Isabel S. Wilcox.
Fund for Women and Art at PAFA: Championing Women Artists Since 1810
Emily and Mike Cavanagh, Ro and Martin King; the Alice L. Walton Foundation, Ralph Citino and Lawrence Taylor, Amy and R. Putnam Coes III, Jules and Connie Kay, Sueyun and Gene Locks, John and Leigh Middleton,the Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, Maggie and Brien Murphy, Donna Ostroff and Carl Capista, P. J. Rosenau, Howard Sacks and Vesna Todorović Sacks; Marilyn Fishman and James MacElderry, Isabel S. Wilcox; Judith K. Brodsky, Elizabeth Glassman, Sharon Lorenzo, Jim and Keith Straw. Honorary members: Rina Banerjee, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Audrey L. Flack, Marguerite Lenfest, Anne E. McCollum, Sarah McEneaney, Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman.
Special exhibitions are generously supported by Robert E. Kohler and Frances Coulborn Kohler, Dorothy and Ken Woodcock; the Lau Longsworth Charitable Fund; the Armand G. Erpf Fund, Jonathan L. Cohen, Anne E. McCollum, and donors to the PAFA Annual Exhibition Fund.
Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game
October 28, 2021—April 3, 2022
The first retrospective of Joan Semmel’s work—sixty years of the iconic artist’s groundbreaking paintings, from her early abstract-expressionist paintings through her movement-defining feminist art and activism to the vital work that she is making of her own mature body today. Curated by Jodi Throckmorton, Curator of Contemporary Art.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building 128 North Broad St. Philadelphia, PA 19102
The exhibition is open Thursdays & Fridays 10 AM—4PM and Saturdays & Sundays 11 AM-5 PM.
Advance reservations are requested.
Information about the exhibition
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Web page image: Centered (detail), 2002, Oil on canvas, 48 x 53 in., Private Collection © Joan Semmel/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York