198.1 cm x 172.7 cm (78 in. x 68 in.)
(Chicago, Illinois, 1925 - 1992, Paris, France)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991
Joan Mitchell made this painting on Long Island, New York in the summer of 1960; it is one of the only works she painted outside of France. Mitchell often looked to nature for her abstraction, and the cobalt blue paint that dominates this frenetic work is a color she begins to use frequently after her summer on the Long Island shores.
Mitchell often painted scenes as seen through the filter of her memory, describing her works as “remembered landscapes . . . [which] become transformed” through the act of painting. In a review of her first solo show in Paris, which opened the year this painting was made, French critic Pierre Schneider wrote that Mitchell’s works divulged “conflicting hesitations and mutually abolishing decisions.” With its raw energy, dramatic drips, and emphatic gestures, "Rock Bottom" reveals the agency Mitchell exercises in her approach to abstraction, movement, color, and the picture. “It’s a very violent painting,” the artist once said of this painting. “And you might say [about] sea . . . rocks.”