Leon Neyfakh writes in today’s Observer about the Whitney Museum embarking on a new retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe–and if this exhibition gets even one certifiably positive review it might be the first in the modern history O’Keeffe exhibitions.
The gallery owners who sell Ms. O’Keeffe’s work speak highly of it. They even mention an experimental early phase — when “there was no one in America more avant-garde than she was” — that Whitney visitors might find refreshing and unexpected. But even this early phase never impressed the critics, according to Ms. O’Keeffe’s biographer, Roxana Robinson:
“The critics liked to dismiss her as a woman, and anything she did as soft and emotional,” Ms. Robinson said. “One of the critics early on said, ‘This is just a woman who wants to have a baby.’”
And that was relatively tame compared to what came later, including one Times review of a Met retrospective, just after her passing in 1986, which surely qualifies as speaking ill of the dead. (“Calendar art” and “high-class tourist brochure.”) Of course, the Whitney might not care since the exhibition is expected to bring in piles of money.
We did find at least one reviewer excited about Ms. O’Keeffe’s work. After a lengthy description of her work on the Palo Duro Canyon, her Wikipedia entry says:
She also drew flowers that looked like a vigina!