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Marion Coffey The Art of Color
June 3, 2022 @ 8:00 am – July 10, 2022 @ 5:00 pm
Working rather quietly throughout a long life that successfully balanced home and professional career, Marion Coffey (1924–2011, née Kunzelmann) created an impressive body of rich, dazzling paintings in acrylic and oil on both canvas and large sheets of paper torn by hand. The legacy she left is substantial: landscapes and harbors, flowers and interiors, cityscapes, occasionally figures, and even a series of abstracted American flags. Coffey translated her experience as a pioneering female commercial artist in Chicago and later in Milwaukee into a sophisticated vision that was imbued with a deep understanding of European and American precedents.
Coffey had a great ability to look at the work of artists and with a hand as sure as her eye, make many of their discoveries her own. She was deeply influenced by the French Fauve painters and the German Expressionists: as it was for them, color became her chief means of capturing a subject but also communicating what is feels like as much as what it looks like. As art historian Debra Brehmer wrote on the occasion of Coffey’s 2003 exhibition at Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee: Coffey’s “play of abstraction and representation is a learned game. Absorbed within these robust compositions is a lifetime of study and observation as well as a calculated cutting and pasting of history.” Her brilliantly hued paintings are wonderfully affirmative, expressing a joy in seeing and being that she wanted to share.
MOWA is delighted in turn to share seven decades of work by this remarkable artist. Marion Coffey: The Art of Color marks her museum debut by showcasing almost forty paintings, many of which are on public view for the very first time.