Maira Kalman: Women Holding Things at Mary Ryan Gallery
Mary Ryan Gallery is pleased to present Women Holding Things, a collection of over 30 new paintings by Maira Kalman. Created during the pandemic, it is a love song to the women in our world. This will be Kalman’s debut exhibition at Mary Ryan Gallery.
“What do women hold?” Kalman asks. “The home and the family. And the children and the food. The friendships. The work. The work of the world. And the work of being human. The memories. And the troubles. And the sorrows and the triumphs. And the love.”
Women Holding Things began in the spring of 2021 as Kalman and her son, Alex Kalman, created a limited-edition booklet by the same name which served as the conceptual basis of the publication and exhibition opening this fall. The booklet, which began as a fundraiser in support of charities combatting hunger, expanded to a full book published by HarperCollins with eighty-six paintings illustrating Kalman’s meditations on womanhood. The exhibition on view at Mary Ryan Gallery will include over thirty of the paintings originally published in the book. Each work on view is characterized by Kalman’s trademark style and use of dense gouache to create richly colored paintings on paper.
Training her sensitive eye on the inimitable women in her life, Kalman captures with quiet power the essence of women that have captured her imagination via the objects that fit between their hands—from books to cabbages—and the wealth of meaning ascribed to these objects. In a tour de force of visual storytelling, she gently reveals the universality of the things her subjects hold dear—the things that burden, haunt, and nourish them. The objects held are tools—and occasionally, evidence—of a life lived, and as such, the inanimate objects captured in Kalman’s paintings are each pinned by the hope, joy and sadness of those that carry them.
The figures holding things in Kalman’s paintings include a wide range of women. Some, like Gertrude Stein, Edith Sitwell, Ayana V. Jackson, or Kiki Smith, are well known. Others, such as Kalman’s daughter, granddaughters, or cousin Iris, are fixtures of Kalman’s intimate life. Also included in Women Holding Things are select portraits of men, including Rilke and Chekov and Kalman’s father. Finally, there are portraits of objects holding things. All of Kalman’s subjects hold a rich interiority.