Painted in 1964, Untitled (Blues Away) belongs to a suite of works Mitchell fondly referred to as the "stations on the Paris subway," and of which another example resides in the permanent collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. After splitting her time between the Paris and New York, Mitchell eventually settled in the City of Light in 1959, thus beginning the most turbulent and prolific period in her career. Mitchell’s bold defiance against her contemporaries’ penchant for “all-over compositions” is no more prevalent than in the present work; the deeply pigmented and concentrated center radiates with brooding emotion, only to be broken by hopeful gleams of bright color. Out of the fury of blues, teals, and olive greens comes a hopeful red that, as the title of the work suggests, pushes the blues away. As John Ashbery expertly discerned in a review of Mitchell’s 1965 solo exhibition at Stable Gallery in New York, “Joan Mitchell’s new paintings…continue an unhurried meditation on bits of landscape and air. There are new forms, new images in this new work but no more than were needed at any given moment…the abrupt materialization of [a] shape strikes a few echoes in other paintings, where calligraphy, sometimes flowing, sometimes congealing, continues patiently, as though in a long letter to someone, to analyze the appearances that hold her attention the longest” (John Ashbery, “An Expressionist in Paris,” ARTnews, April 1965, n.p.).
In Untitled (Blues Away), Mitchell’s passion, gestural intention, and emotion behind each brushstroke and passage of color is palpable. Indeed, in Untitled (Blues Away), Mitchell fuses the visual vocabulary of that of her past, the New York Abstract Expressionists with that of her present, the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, in a riotous manner which only she could accomplish. Helen Molesworth echoes this sentiment: “The overall effect of both her use of color and application of paint is that the compositions feel built-up, considered, and intensely achieved. Her deployment of painting’s elemental building blocks—color and stroke—result in paintings that are analogous to poetry. If in poetry language is both sharpened and distilled, both loaded with and emptied of meaning, then in Mitchell’s canvases the elements of paintings—paint, color and canvas—are both themselves and at the same time replete with expressive connotation. This is the dialectic struggle waged by Mitchell’s work” (Helen Molesworth in Exh. Cat., London, Hauser & Wirth, Joan Mitchell: Leaving America, New York to Paris 1958-1964, 2007, p. 9).
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