It was exhilarating to see the life and work of one of America’s greatest artists celebrated in the magazine [“Joan Mitchell: At Home In Poetry,” February 2013]. Mitchell had many connections to the literary world — not only was her perfectionist mother an associate editor and major supporter of Poetry, but Mitchell’s husband Barney Rosset was the owner and publisher of Grove Press.
From an aesthetic point of view, Mitchell is the equal of the very best “first” generation Abstract Expressionists, Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, Motherwell, and Kline. She knew them all and had to out drink, out smoke, and out curse them in order to be accepted as a member of their all-male club. Admittedly, she was a handful.
Mitchell’s reputation has suffered somewhat from those who consider her “second” generation, implicitly a follower of the pioneering Abstract Expressionists. This is a mistake. Not only was Mitchell intimately involved, in more senses than one, with the “first” generation artists, but she was born in 1925, within three years of Theodoros Stamos, generally considered the youngest of The Irascibles in the famous Life photograph of that name, and was first exhibited in the landmark Ninth Street Show of 1951 alongside Pollock, de Kooning, and her teacher Hans Hofmann. Furthermore, Kline’s breakthrough show had occurred just the year before Mitchell’s, in 1950, and he is indisputably considered a “first” generation member of the New York School.