Joan Semmel

Aura (2016)
Oil on canvas 
72h x 60w in (182.9h x 152.4w cm)
Aura (2016)
Oil on canvas
72h x 60w in (182.9h x 152.4w cm)
Purple Diagonal (1980)
Oil on canvas
78h x 104w in (198.1h x 264.2w cm)
Purple Diagonal (1980)
Oil on canvas
78h x 104w in (198.1h x 264.2w cm)
Green Heart (1971)
Oil on canvas
48h x 58w in (121.92h x 147.32w cm)
Collection of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Green Heart (1971)
Oil on canvas
48h x 58w in (121.92h x 147.32w cm)
Collection of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Intimate Spaces (2016)
Oil on canvas 
60h x 48w in (152.4h x 121.9w cm)
Intimate Spaces (2016)
Oil on canvas
60h x 48w in (152.4h x 121.9w cm)
Body & Sole (2004)
Oil On Canvas
46h x 58w in (116.8h x 147.3w cm)
Body & Sole (2004)
Oil On Canvas
46h x 58w in (116.8h x 147.3w cm)
Touch (1977)
Oil on canvas
54h x 106w in (137.16h x 269.24w cm)
Touch (1977)
Oil on canvas
54h x 106w in (137.16h x 269.24w cm)
Untitled (1978)
Oil crayon and collage on paper
22h x 30w in (55.9h x 76.2w cm)
Untitled (1978)
Oil crayon and collage on paper
22h x 30w in (55.9h x 76.2w cm)
Untitled (1971)
Oil On Canvas
69h x 58w in (175.3h x 147.3w cm)
Untitled (1971)
Oil On Canvas
69h x 58w in (175.3h x 147.3w cm)
Erotic Yellow (1973)
Oil on canvas
72h x 72w in (182.88 x 182.88 cm)
Erotic Yellow (1973)
Oil on canvas
72h x 72w in (182.88 x 182.88 cm)
Beachbody (1985)
Oil on canvas
68h x 68w in (172.72h x 172.72w cm)
Beachbody (1985)
Oil on canvas
68h x 68w in (172.72h x 172.72w cm)
Crossed Legs (2011)
Oil on canvas
48h x 48w in (121.92h x 121.92w cm)
Crossed Legs (2011)
Oil on canvas
48h x 48w in (121.92h x 121.92w cm)
Multiples (1998)
Oil on canvas
58h x 48w in (147.32h x 121.92w cm)
Multiples (1998)
Oil on canvas
58h x 48w in (147.32h x 121.92w cm)
Centered (2002)
Oil on canvas
48h x 53w in (121.92h x 134.62w cm)
Centered (2002)
Oil on canvas
48h x 53w in (121.92h x 134.62w cm)
Blue Embrace (2016)
Oil on canvas
48h x 60w in (121.9h x 152.4w cm)
Blue Embrace (2016)
Oil on canvas
48h x 60w in (121.9h x 152.4w cm)
Untitled (2016)
Oil crayon on paper
23.5h x 22.25w in (59.7h x 56.5w cm)
Untitled (2016)
Oil crayon on paper
23.5h x 22.25w in (59.7h x 56.5w cm)

Biography

 view entire CV PDF 118 K

Joan Semmel (b.1932) has centered her painting practice around issues of the body, from desire to aging, as well as those of identity and cultural imprinting. She studied at the Cooper Union, Pratt Institute and the Art Student’s League of New York. In the 1960s, Semmel began her painting career in Spain and South America, where she experimented with abstraction. She returned to New York in the early 1970s, where her practice turned towards figurative paintings, many with erotic themes in response to pornography, popular culture, and concerns around representation. Her practice traces the transformation that women’s sexuality has seen in the last century, and emphasizes the possibility for female autonomy through the body.

In the 1970s, Semmel began her exploration of female sexuality with the "Sex Paintings" and "Erotic Series," large scale depictions of highly sexual positions. Her reclaimed gaze of the female nude heralded a feminist approach to painting and representation in the 1970s. Produced at a pivotal moment in her practice and in the cultural landscape of Second-wave Feminism, these series depict couples entwined in various coital positions rendered with expressive gesture, exemplifying her keen understanding of color and composition. In 1974, she made a definitive formal shift from abstraction by fully embracing figuration. Using her own body as subject, she began depicting her nudeness on canvas, shifting the perspective from that of an observer to a personal point of view. During the mid-1970s, Semmel turned to photography to capture reflections of her own body, later bringing the camera and her reflection in mirrors into the paintings in the 1980s.

Since the late-1980s, Semmel has meditated on the aging female physique. Recent paintings continue the artist’s exploration of self-portraiture and female identity, representing the artist’s body, doubled, fragmented, and in-motion. Dissolving the space between artist and model, viewer and subject, the paintings are notable for their celebration of color and flesh. Soft and milky colors provide background for the luminous skin tones Semmel captures, as figure and ground merge. In many of the works, the artist confronts the viewer with a direct gaze, a departure from iconic earlier works in which the point of view that remained within the canvas itself. Semmel’s most recent series Transparencies continues her interest in movement and explores invisibility of the aging female body in culture at large.

Joan Semmel’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2016); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC (2014); Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen, Germany (2013); Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (2013); Jewish Museum, New York (2010); Museum of Modern Art Arnhem, The Netherlands (2009); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007); National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (2007); and Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX (2006); among others. Semmel’s paintings are part of the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Orange County Museum of Art, CA; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; The Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; the Jocelyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE; the Jewish Museum, New York; among others. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award (2013), Anonymous Was a Woman (2008), and National Endowment for the Arts awards (1985 and 1980). She is Professor Emeritus of Painting at Rutgers University.

Articles / Reviews

  • Semmel The Brooklyn Rail  November 1, 2016  PDF 427 K
  • Semmel Flaunt Magazine  October 4, 2016  PDF 260 K
  • Semmel Art in America  September 16, 2016  PDF 169 K
  • Semmel Hyperallergic  September 9, 2016  PDF 378 K
  • Semmel V Magazine  Fall 2016  PDF 0.9 MB
  • Semmel Interview  January 19, 2016  PDF 362 K
  • Semmel ARTnews  October 2, 2015  PDF 252 K
  • Semmel ARTnews  June, 2015  PDF 98 K
  • Semmel Hyperallergic  May 6, 2015  PDF 1.4 MB
  • Semmel Brooklyn Rail  May 6, 2015  PDF 264 K
  • Semmel East Hampton Star  December 17, 2013  PDF 1.1 MB
  • Semmel Art Das Kunstmagazin  November 2013  PDF 1.5 MB
  • Semmel Artforum  September 2013  PDF 2.1 MB
  • Semmel ARTnews  May 2013  PDF 1 MB
  • Semmel Flash Art  April 24, 2013  PDF 112 K
  • Semmel Oklahoma State University Museum of Art  April 22, 2013  PDF 131 K
  • Semmel Huffington Post  February 6, 2013  PDF 430 K
  • Semmel Artinfo  February 4, 2013  PDF 213 K
  • Semmel New York Times  February 2, 2013  PDF 147 K
  • Semmel Artlog  February 2, 2013  PDF 1.1 MB
  • Semmel DNAinfo.com  January 29, 2013  PDF 159 K
  • Semmel artdaily.org  January 29, 2013  PDF 154 K
  • Semmel ABC Madrid  January 27, 1965  PDF 339 K
  • Semmel Artforum.com  January 25, 2013  PDF 170 K
  • Semmel East Hampton Star  January 22, 2013  PDF 65 K
  • Semmel New York Daily News  January 22, 2013  PDF 0.9 MB
  • Semmel Allan Stone Gallery  May 31, 2012  PDF 58 K
  • Semmel ARTnews  May 2012  PDF 1.2 MB
  • Semmel Columbus Dispatch  November 14, 2011  PDF 71 K
  • Semmel Art in America  August 27, 2011  PDF 37 K
  • Semmel ArtInfo  August 17, 2011  PDF 2.2 MB
  • Semmel Artforum  Summer 2011  PDF 2.9 MB
  • Semmel New York Times  May 5, 2011  PDF 70 K
  • Semmel Artforum  May 1, 2011  PDF 115 K
  • Semmel New Yorker  April 29, 2011  PDF 186 K
  • Semmel Huffington Post  April 27, 2011  PDF 182 K
  • Semmel Artnet  April 22, 2011  PDF 1.9 MB
  • Semmel ARTnews  December 2010  PDF 171 K
  • Semmel New York Times  September 10, 2010  PDF 142 K
  • Semmel New York Times  August 21, 2009  PDF 60 K
  • Semmel TimeOut New York  August 2009  PDF 52 K
  • Semmel Artforum  July 2009  PDF 66 K
  • Semmel New York Times  August 26, 2007  PDF 278 K
  • Semmel New York Times  August 24, 2007  PDF 80 K
  • Semmel New York Times  March 9, 2007  PDF 87 K
  • Semmel Artforum  Summer 2007  PDF 134 K
  • Semmel New York Times  January 8, 2006  PDF 113 K
  • Semmel Time Off  December 23, 2005  PDF 5 MB
  • Semmel Star Ledger  December 23, 2005  PDF 328 K
  • Semmel Time Off  December 23, 2005  PDF 5 MB
  • Semmel Town Topics  December 21, 2005  PDF 175 K
  • Semmel Home News Tribune  December 15, 2005  PDF 109 K
  • Semmel Art in America  January 2004  PDF 4.8 MB
  • Semmel Art Lies  Fall 2003  PDF 343 K
  • Semmel New York Times  October 11, 2002  PDF 88 K
  • Semmel Salzburger Nachrichten  August 2000  PDF 454 K
  • Semmel New York Times  June 30, 2000  PDF 171 K
  • Semmel New York Art World  June 2000  PDF 167 K
  • Semmel New York Times  May 21, 2000  PDF 292 K
  • Semmel Hone News Tribune  April 21, 2000  PDF 546 K
  • Semmel Sunday Star-Ledger  April 9, 2000  PDF 0.9 MB
  • Semmel Art Monthly  April 2000  PDF 343 K
  • Semmel Artforum  December 1999  PDF 578 K
  • Semmel Art in America  November 1999  PDF 4.7 MB
  • Semmel New Yorker  September 6, 1999  PDF 314 K
  • Semmel Mitchell Algus Gallery  September 1999  PDF 154 K
  • Semmel New York Times  August 27, 1999  PDF 98 K
  • Semmel TimeOut New York  August 19, 1999  PDF 71 K
  • Semmel New York Times  August 6, 1999  PDF 107 K
  • Semmel Village Voice  July 27, 1999  PDF 143 K
  • Semmel City Week  March 4, 1999
  • Semmel New York Times  May 31, 1998  PDF 151 K
  • Semmel Art in America  January 1988  PDF 167 K
  • Semmel Woman Art  Winter 1997  PDF 5.5 MB
  • Semmel Woman's Art Journal  Fall 1995  PDF 585 K
  • Semmel Art Journal  Spring 1994
  • Semmel Power of Feminist Art  1994  PDF 357 K
  • Semmel Art in America  December 1993  PDF 105 K
  • Semmel New York Times  May 23, 1993  PDF 168 K
  • Semmel Sunday Star-Ledger  May 9, 1993  PDF 283 K
  • Semmel New Directions for Women  May 1993  PDF 93 K
  • Semmel Downtown Express  March 15, 1993  PDF 256 K
  • Semmel Village Voice  March 9, 1993  PDF 119 K
  • Semmel Village Voice  March 9, 1993  PDF 256 K
  • Semmel Cover Magazine  March 1993  PDF 511 K
  • Semmel Sunday Times Union  March 22, 1992  PDF 152 K
  • Semmel Metroland  March 19, 1992  PDF 203 K
  • Semmel Times Union  March 19, 1992  PDF 243 K
  • Semmel Through the Object's Eye  1992  PDF 218 K
  • Semmel Art Papers  November 1991  PDF 104 K
  • Semmel New York Times  July 7, 1991  PDF 307 K
  • Semmel Newsday  July 14, 1989  PDF 147 K
  • Semmel New York Times  June 11, 1989  PDF 316 K
  • Semmel New York Times  May 21, 1989  PDF 216 K
  • Semmel Exposures: Women & Their Art  1989  PDF 287 K
  • Semmel ARTnews  December 1988  PDF 258 K
  • Semmel New York Times  June 21, 1987  PDF 542 K
  • Semmel New York Times  May 10, 1987  PDF 422 K
  • Semmel Newsday  May 8, 1987  PDF 428 K
  • Semmel Art News  Summer 1987  PDF 1.5 MB
  • Semmel Connoisseur Magazine  March 1985  PDF 202 K
  • Semmel Art in America  November 1984  PDF 302 K
  • Semmel New York Times  May 4, 1984  PDF 118 K
  • Semmel Arts Magazine  May 1984  PDF 1 MB
  • Semmel Artnews  1984  PDF 340 K
  • Semmel New York Times  July 6, 1980  PDF 2.1 MB
  • Semmel Art in America  March 1980  PDF 2.8 MB
  • Semmel Soho Weekly News  November 22, 1979  PDF 304 K
  • Semmel Arts Magazine  November 1978  PDF 394 K
  • Semmel Soho Weekly News  April 27, 1978  PDF 325 K
  • Semmel Nation  December 1977  PDF 458 K
  • Semmel Artnews  December 1977  PDF 454 K
  • Semmel Soho Weekly News  October 13, 1977  PDF 529 K
  • Semmel Houston Chronicle  October 1977  PDF 320 K
  • Semmel Houston Chronicle  July 8, 1977  PDF 4.8 MB
  • Semmel Soho Weekly News  March 17, 1977  PDF 3.4 MB
  • Semmel Feminist Art Journal  Summer 1977  PDF 1.1 MB
  • Semmel WomanArt Magazine  Spring 1977  PDF 132 K
  • Semmel Arts Magazine  October 1975  PDF 323 K
  • Semmel New York Times  February 20, 1975  PDF 332 K
  • Semmel New York Magazine  February 11, 1974  PDF 665 K