Abstract Expressionists: The Women

Presenting a fresh look at important contributions U.S. women painters working in New York, California, and Paris made to Abstract Expressionism from the early 1940s through the 1970s.

The American Federation of Arts is pleased to announce Abstract Expressionists: The Women. The exhibition will present a fresh look at important contributions U.S. women painters working in New York, California, and Paris made to Abstract Expressionism from the early 1940s through the 1970s. The show features approximately fifty works from The Levett Collection by over thirty women artists, offering audiences a more in-depth understanding of a singular aspect of twentieth-century American art, one whose significance has only just begun to receive proper recognition.

Until recently, the historical and critical reception of Abstract Expressionism—an American postwar artistic phenomenon—has almost uniformly marginalized its women practitioners. The development of expansive, gestural paintings with a radical approach to scale, surface, and process has historically been associated with male creativity, invoking a New World “heroic” masculinity that defined the American post-war era. Abstract Expressionists: The Women upends this gendered narrative, demonstrating that women artists working in the Abstract Expressionist style were not merely acolytes or interpreters, but ambitious innovators all their own. Concurrent with their more celebrated male peers, many of these women experimented with spontaneity and immediacy in their large-scale compositions, also exhibiting the automatic techniques and extemporaneous characteristics associated with “action painting.” Focusing on the talent, commitment, and ingenuity of more than two dozen women artists, this exhibition reveals the vital impact made by women painters on the first truly avant-garde artistic movement to originate in the United States.

Abstract Expressionists: The Women is enriched by compelling and informative didactic material, including archival photographs and ephemera, a comprehensive timeline chronology of female achievement during this period, and other historical documentation. The exhibition is accompanied by a more than 200 page catalogue (Merrell Publishers, April 2023) detailing the world-class Levett Collection through scholarly essays and lavish illustrations. Showcasing the resolution, innovation, and creativity of an unparalleled group of women artists, Abstract Expressionists: The Women reveals the integral role they played in defining American art on a national and international stage.



Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas
August 24, 2025 - November 16, 2025
Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia
January 30, 2026 - April 26, 2026
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin
May 23, 2026 - August 30, 2026
Grinnell College Museum of Art, Grinnell, Iowa
September 19, 2026 - January 3, 2027
Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, Alabama
January 30, 2027 - April 25, 2027


The book-length publication Abstract Expressionists: The Women (London: Merrell, 2023), co-authored by Ellen G. Landau and Joan M. Marter, will accompany the exhibition. The AFA will produce a brochure to accompany the tour.


Ellen G. Landau, PhD, Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emerita of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University, is an independent art historian and curator in California. She has organized exhibitions and written extensively on Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, Mercedes Matter, and Michael West and is the author of the catalogue raisonné of Lee Krasner’s work. In 2016, she wrote on Elaine de Kooning for Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Art Museum.


The exhibition and tour are organized by the American Federation of Arts.