Jerry Salz has been a vocal advocate of greater representation for women artists. So it follows on that he would be a proponent and defender of Georgia O’Keeffe. Which doesn’t mean he’s wrong, just that he is consistent:
Critic Clement Greenberg, a nonfan, was appalled when MoMA honored O’Keeffe with a retrospective in 1946—one of its first solo shows for a woman; her work was “little more than tinted photography.” Threatened male artists (sex was their territory!) Edward Hopper and John Sloan were “furious” that she’d been elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1949 and “tried to intervene.”
O’Keeffe produced some of the most original and ambitious art in the twentieth century. Her ideas about surface, scale, and color are not only daring; they presaged the work of artists as varied as Barnett Newman, Milton Avery, Mark Rothko, Morris Louis, and Mary Heilmann, as well as Color Field painting, Lyrical Abstraction, and contemporary postmodern abstraction. At her best, she is a formally inventive poetic powerhouse who makes the nonobjective feel mystical, familiar, objective, and subjective all at once.
In the first two knockout rooms of the Whitney’s show, Haskell gives us O’Keeffe’s early works on paper and her uncanny ability to conjure indivisible abstract wholes in which all parts are of equal interest and never decorative—something Donald Judd made good on decades later. Aside from one darkened gallery of Stieglitz’s super-seductive pictures of her (who knew underarm hair could be so titillating?), from the third gallery on, you’re lowered into O’Keeffe’s lapidarian vision, glowing prismatic color, and luscious thin surfaces. She never overworks anything; the relationship of her interior forms to external edges feels found yet pure as Pythagorean geometry.
Out of the Erotic Ghetto (New York Magazine)