- Howardena Pindell (American, Born 1943)
Howardena Pindell is an American mixed media artist and painter. Pindell was trained as a painter at Boston University and Yale University, and is known for exploring process through her artmaking – utilizing unique textures, colors, and compositional structures across her media. Much of Pindell’s work is political, addressing issues of racism, feminism, slavery, and exploitation.
Howardena Pindell co-founded the first artist-directed gallery for women artists in the United States in 1972 – the A.I.R. Gallery – asserting her place in art history as an African-American woman. The A.I.R. Gallery allowed women artists to curate their own exhibitions and take risks that traditional galleries were not willing to allow. Along with her work for A.I.R, Pindell spent 12 years of her career working in various capacities for the Museum of Modern Art. These unique influences converged to inform Pindell’s work in the late 1970s and 1980s, as she was exposed to a number of exhibitions while at A.I.R. and MOMA that inspired her process. One exhibition that Pindell cites resonating with strongly was the MOMA’s collection of Akan batakari tunics in an exhibit called African Textiles and Decorative Arts. These influences led Pindell to the process she is most well-known for – one in which she deconstructs and reconstructs her paintings by cutting the canvases and sewing them back together. This can be seen as a reference to the African textiles that so heavily influenced her, as well as her interest in a labor- and process-oriented approach to her work.
The work on display, Flight/Fields, is representative of a multi-year printmaking collaboration with Judith Solodkin of Solo Impressions, Inc. Master Printer Solodkin completed a print portfolio of A.I.R. artists in the early 1970s, and this was the first time that Pindell had worked with a Master Printer. Solo Impressions printed many of Pindell’s works thereafter. Flight/Fields has the appearance of de- and re-construction prominent in much of Pindell’s painted works. The print’s subject was depicted by Pindell many times – the grid between farm pastures as she flew over them during travels. Pindell dislikes flying, but has conquered that fear throughout her years of travel – much as she has conquered over the critics of her increasingly political later works. “There was a nostalgia for my non-issue related work of the 1970s”, she says. But her dedication to combating racism and discrimination through her art, travel, writings, and lectures gives her the strength to fly in the face of misguided nostalgia.