In Pink Lean (2019), Semmel celebrates color and gesture while candidly portraying her own aging body. For the past five decades, Joan Semmel has centered her practice around issues of the body and sexuality with an ongoing engagement with her own nude form leading to the groundbreaking documentation of the aging female form over several decades.
Trained in Abstract Expressionism during the 1950s, she has adopted abstraction’s formal vocabulary and expressive color for the representation of human form. Semmel began this project immediately following her most recent exhibition of new work in New York in January 2019. In reviewing that show, critic Johanna Fateman championed, “These fresh examples of [Semmel’s] signature approach to self-portraiture are suffused with euphoric resolve and executed with cool bravado, as [she] … handily reprises or references key moments of her radical career.” Semmel considers the unifying element throughout her oeuvre “a single perspective: being inside the experience of femaleness and taking possession of it culturally.” Her work over the last half-century firmly situates the female body as a place for autonomy and a vehicle to challenge the objectification and fetishization of female sexuality.