Howardena Pindell


Dates of Membership:



“One of my first one-person exhibitions was held at AIR Gallery, the first women’s cooperative at 97 Wooster Street in New York City. The New York art world was more rigidly and solidly white and male at the time than it is now and this condition was being resisted. I developed a number of tools for inward looking, personal assessment through the women’s movement’s consciousness raising processes in order to understand how racism and sexism work within the art community as well as the community at large.”

Howardena Pindell began her career in the midst of one of the most intense periods of revolutionary action in the United States. While activist groups for both black and women artists were very active in the 70s, they did not necessarily interact in meaningful or productive ways. Howardena however stood out as an artist able to synthesize the many different facets of her identity into confident and carefully thought out work. A highly versatile artist, Pindell stands at the intersection of painterly abstraction and didacticism, vacillating between the two depending on the desired effect of each piece. Her early years are defined by her “Dot Paintings” abstractions that reveal a complex layering process in which torn fabric, colorful accents and surfaces permeated via hole puncher create an unexpected harmony. Later works include pieces such as “Free, White, and 21”, an explicit and piercing indictment of the latent white supremacy of the art world.  While she did take an early interest in abstractions, she has never felt confined by any one genre, and her overall body of work shows a willingness to allow her practice to evolve naturally according to her needs.  

Howardena was born in Philadelphia in 1943. She received a BFA from Boston University and an MFA from Yale School of Art and Architecture. In 1972 she became involved with A.I.R. Howardena provided the name for the gallery, referencing the “Artist in Residence” signs for SoHo studios, that indicated an occupied building. She would use A.I.R. as the platform for some of her most significant showings, including the first solo exhibition of her dot paintings in 1973, and her video installation for Free, White, and 21 as part of the Dialectics of Isolation exhibition in 1980. In 1979, after surviving a traumatic car accident, she would shift her focus to more autobiographical and didactic works. Her work throughout the 80s and 90s tackled complex subjects including race, womanhood, the AIDS crisis, slavery, and other issues. Currently, Howardena is a full tenured professor at Stony Brook, and has taken advantage of the momentum from renewed interest in her early dot paintings to make new abstractions that push the innovations within her early works even further.