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Alice Neel: Freedom

by Helen Molesworth

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One of the foremost American figurative painters of the twentieth century, it is not surprising that Alice Neel was a humanist--she was fascinated by people. Known for her daringly honest portraits, Neel loved to paint people in all their complexities--to penetrate and reveal their fears and anxieties, how they display defiance and survival. She also loved to paint the unadorned human figure. Her nudes, in particular, explore the body with frankness while celebrating the individuality of each of her subjects, and they exemplify the freedom and courage with which she approached her work and her life. Through her paintings and works on paper, Neel was able to free herself from the expected inhibitions and crippling taboos that were placed on women and focus on the beauty and nuanced complexity of flesh and the human body. In their mastery of form, color, and implied social commentary, her nudes are as relevant today as when they were painted. Alice Neel documents the solo exhibition of the artist's work at David Zwirner in New York in 2019. Including works that span the 1920s to the 1980s, this presentation focuses primarily on the nude figure-- whether male or female, adult or child--and demonstrates how Neel rebelled against and challenged the traditional perceptions of sexuality, motherhood, and beauty in our society. The catalogue includes newly commissioned scholarship by Helen Molesworth and a foreword by Ginny Neel of The Estate of Alice Neel.… (more)
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One of the foremost American figurative painters of the twentieth century, it is not surprising that Alice Neel was a humanist--she was fascinated by people. Known for her daringly honest portraits, Neel loved to paint people in all their complexities--to penetrate and reveal their fears and anxieties, how they display defiance and survival. She also loved to paint the unadorned human figure. Her nudes, in particular, explore the body with frankness while celebrating the individuality of each of her subjects, and they exemplify the freedom and courage with which she approached her work and her life. Through her paintings and works on paper, Neel was able to free herself from the expected inhibitions and crippling taboos that were placed on women and focus on the beauty and nuanced complexity of flesh and the human body. In their mastery of form, color, and implied social commentary, her nudes are as relevant today as when they were painted. Alice Neel documents the solo exhibition of the artist's work at David Zwirner in New York in 2019. Including works that span the 1920s to the 1980s, this presentation focuses primarily on the nude figure-- whether male or female, adult or child--and demonstrates how Neel rebelled against and challenged the traditional perceptions of sexuality, motherhood, and beauty in our society. The catalogue includes newly commissioned scholarship by Helen Molesworth and a foreword by Ginny Neel of The Estate of Alice Neel.

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