“Red and Orange Streak” (1919) is part of Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction at the Whitney. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

There are two Georgia O’Keeffes. They’re closely related, but one is far more interesting than the other. Not so interesting, except maybe as a marketing phenomenon, is the post-1930s cow-skull painter and striker of frontier-priestess poses. More interesting, and less familiar, is the artist found in “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction,” a vivid and surprisingly surprising show of more than 130 paintings and drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The show’s focus is on the first two decades of O’Keeffe’s long career. The story starts in 1915, when she was an art teacher in South Carolina and produced her first abstract drawings, which were also among the first fully abstract images by any American artist. Three years later she had her first encounter with the photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz, who set her up in New York, initiating a long personal, professional and mutually promotional partnership.


Holland Cotter
New York Times