The Call of the Wild (For Pat Steir), 1989
“It’s quite stunning to think about all the women who were painting in New York and all the men they’ve influenced,” Deborah Kass has observed. “When you say Julian Schnabel, I think Joan Snyder. Ross Bleckner, I say Pat Steir.”
Created against the backdrop of painting’s resurgence during the 1980s—an era in which fame and fortune accrued mainly to male artists—Kass took aim, with her Art History Paintings, at what she perceived to be a stubborn fixation on the part of museums, galleries, collectors, and audiences with the idea of masculine genius. In these artworks, of which the mash up of imagery, motifs, and styles the artist has lifted from well-known painters (mostly men) and popular cartoons, Kass comments on the canon’s inclusions and exclusions. Certain examples, including this one, reassert the centrality of women in the development of 20th-century art while bemoaning their lack of recognition. In this preparatory sketch for an eventual painting, tributes to Pat Steir and Lee Krasner appear beside a depiction of Lucy from the comic strip Peanuts, who is seen issuing a cry of frustration—likely at the art world’s sidelining of influential figures like the two artists whose oeuvres are referenced here.