Shirley Jaffe: An American Woman in Paris at the Pompidou Center

A room with art on the wall

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Shirley Jaffe, installation view, Pompidou Center, photo courtesy of Helene Mauri

It might be said for the most part, given the dominant ideology of Modernism, Shirley Jaffe has been overlooked for the standard reasons—her work was out of step with the times, it was derivative of Henri Matisse and Stuart Davis, it was too French, or too American—all according to who you speak with. Yet the gorilla in the room is she was an American woman of the post-war generation who had stayed on after almost everyone had gone home, who sought to get a foothold in the male dominated Parisian art world. Despite this, she persisted and gained respect and support among multi-generations of artists. As such she developed a reputation as an artists’ artist, yet despite her boosters and the fact that she is now being acknowledged with a retrospective exhibition at the Pompidou, Jaffe remains one of the best kept secrets of post-War abstract painting in France and remains unacknowledged in the States.

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