Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Lesbians in Black and White

Where: American Art Museum

When: through October 2, 2016

I first saw Romaine Brooks' work in the National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibit, six years ago.  Hard to believe it's been so long since that show was generating controversy, but it's true.

Now Brooks has her own show, with lots of her paintings and drawings.  The paintings are mostly of her social circle in Europe and feature a muted color palette.  Black, white and gray, with the occasional flash of color, is what's on offer.  She blurs the lines of gender, picturing women in men's clothing.

Later in her career, she focused her attention on drawing, and her pieces are heavily influence by the surrealist movement.  They focus on themes of captivity and entanglement.

Brooks was independently wealthy, which meant she could choose her own subjects and live as she wished.  Who says money can't buy happiness?  It also meant that she didn't have to sell her pieces in order to make a living, so many important works were still in her possession when she died.  Some of those on display have not been seen in decades.

Verdict: Very fine show, even though black and white is not my favorite color combination.  An interesting person, living her own life and refusing to conform to society's ideas, as well as an excellent artist.

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