Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions

September 7—December 9, 2012

In the early 1950s, Godwin began removing representational elements from her paintings in favor of abstract approaches. She continued to push the burgeoning abstraction in her work and, over the next decade, her imagery evolved into powerful nonobjective compositions.  Even now, at this stage in her long career, Godwin is still reinventing the language of abstract painting in her studio.

After graduation from RPI in 1952, Godwin moved to New York City in 1953, during a period of major growth in post-war American art. She attended the Art Students League and studied with noted artists Will Barnet, Harry Sternberg, and Vaclav Vytlacil, as well as at Hans Hofmann’s schools in New York and Provincetown.  As a young artist, she quickly immersed herself in the city, befriended other artists and art dealers, and eventually began to exhibit her paintings and establish her reputation. She achieved considerable success, exhibiting her works at the Stable Gallery and becoming the youngest woman ever to show at Betty Parsons. Godwin’s work has since been featured in numerous group shows and solo exhibitions, and is represented in many private and public collections, including those of the VMFA and the Anderson Gallery.  Among her various awards, she received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from VCU in 1989.

Featuring 25 paintings produced in the 1950s and 60s, Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions offers an in-depth exploration of a critical period in the artist’s development.  The muscular brushwork and aggressive line for which Godwin is known are evident in even the earliest painting included here, created in 1950 before the artist had left her home state of Virginia for New York City.  A subsequent group of paintings, characterized by heightened color and thick impasto, reflect her time as a student of Hans Hofmann.  The exhibition demonstrates how, later in the decade, Godwin’s brushwork became considerably looser as she experimented with pours and stains in large-scale canvases, balancing painterly spontaneity with formal structure. These works and those that followed through the mid-1960s reveal a robust physical energy and intellectual rigor that Godwin retained in the years ahead, as she continued to develop her visual vocabulary.

Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions was organized by René Paul Barilleaux, Chief Curator at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, where it premiered in September 2008. The exhibition also appeared at the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia, in June 2011.

Related Exhibition

Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions is one of two concurrent exhibitions that will celebrate the career of this New York-based painter. Gesture: Judith Godwin and Abstract Expressionism, on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts September 7 – January 26, 2013, features a selection of 15 works that span the artist’s career and demonstrate her remarkably persistent commitment to establishing and expanding her own abstract language. In addition, Gesture places Godwin’s work with the context of a selection of abstract, gestural paintings by a diverse group of artists in the VMFA’s collection, such as Adolph Gottlieb, Norman Lewis, and Joan Mitchell.


Public Events

In Conversation: Judith Godwin with VCUarts Dean Joe Seipel
Thursday, September 6, 5:30 pm
Grace Street Theater, 934 W Grace St

Progressive Opening Receptions
Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions
Anderson Gallery, VCU School of the Arts
Friday, September 7, 5-7 pm

Gesture: Judith Godwin and Abstract Expressionism
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Friday, September 7, 6-8 pm