Susan Weil (b. 1930, New York), whose work is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum, is a painter, printmaker and book artist. She is among the key female figures who pushed the boundaries of Abstract Expressionism.
Weil studied at the Acadėmie Julian in Paris and under Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, the rural mecca for young artists, composers and choreographers, where she often scoured campus rubbish dumps with Robert Rauschenberg looking for unexpected materials to incorporate in their experimental works. Weil moved to New York in 1949 with Rauschenberg, to whom she was briefly married, when the art scene was erupting. She came of age at the center of the New York School, with its eclectic cultural influences and interdisciplinary collaboration. Her peers included Elaine and Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns as well as Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Weil was a notable figure among this group of artist-pioneers whose experimentation with unusual materials and techniques would later influence artists across the globe. When she introduced Rauschenberg to the blueprint technique, which she used to create life-size cyanotypes of human figures and foliage, it had an indelible impact on his practice.
Although Weil was active in New York during the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement, she was not afraid to pursue figuration and reference reality, gaining inspiration from nature, literature, photographs and her personal history. Throughout her long career she has consistently brought to life intangible qualities of time and movement, creating multi-dimensional works in which she fractures the picture plane, deconstructing and reconstructing images. She also consistently experiments with materials from everyday life, including found objects, metal, paper, Plexiglas, repurposed textiles, recycled canvas and wood. The dynamic and playful results are crumpled, cut and refigured compositions that invite viewers to contemplate multiple perspectives at once. Over the years, she cultivated strong interests in James Joyce, Rumi, and the pioneering English-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Poetry and literature have always been an integral part of her practice.
Notable exhibitions of Weil’s work include Frontiers Reimagined at the 56th Venice Biennale; Bauhaus and America: Experiments in Light and Movement at the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster, Germany; and Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957, which premiered in 2015 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and then traveled to the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles and the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, Columbus. In 2015 her work was also on view at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in poemumbles: 30 years of Susan Weil’s poems/images. In 2017 it was included in Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her work was included in James Joyce: Shut Your Eyes and See at the Poetry Collection, University at Buffalo, New York; and in Our Own Work, Our Own Way, at The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina, 2020. Weil’s work is currently on view in the traveling exhibition A More Perfect Union: American Artists and the Currents of Our Time organized by the U.S. governmental organization Art in Embassies.
Weil is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her work is in the permanent collections of major institutions worldwide including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and Brooklyn Museum, New York; Dallas Museum of Art and The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas; The J. Paul Getty Museum, California; the Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; Malmö Konstmuseum, Sweden; Lyric Kabinett, Munich; National Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Harvard University, Houghton Library, Cambridge; and the New York Public Library, The Spencer Collection, New York, among others.
In 2010, Skira Editore published Susan Weil: Moving Pictures, a comprehensive monograph documenting her large and diverse body of art, livres d’artiste and poetry.
Susan Weil lives and works in New York.