Lapse, by Joan Mitchell, is part of a late flowering of the artist's career. Lapse's blue and orange bursts of color are reminiscent of her La Grande Vallée works from the early 1980's, but the painting has an openness and light, partly due to its white background, that is unique to this period.
An important element to Mitchell's achievement has been her ability to reinvent new ways of creating allusive abstract painting, while creating works that undeniably her own. Unlike many artists, Mitchell was never satisfied with coming up with a "formula" to be endlessly reworked. Always daring, her palette, scale, densities of color and moods--from celebratory to morbid--changed dramatically throughout her career. In the truest sense of the word, Mitchell was an Abstract Expressionist--her paintings reflected her many emotions, sensations, and ideas; it is not surprising that a woman as complex as Mitchell would create an equally complex oeuvre.
Relative to her epic-scale paintings, Lapse is a human scale example. It has a spontaneous quality, more like drawing than painting, that highlights the artist's draftsmanship and control of the medium. Until the end of her life, Mitchell created vigorous, uncompromising works, which are historically viewed as accomplished as her early works of the 1950s and 1960s. Works like Lapse are considered "some of the most assuredly opulent paintings of her career" (J. Livingston, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell, New York, 2002, p. 44).
Joan Mitchell outside of her studio, Vétheuil Photograph by Édouard Boubat
Joan Mitchell in her studio at Vétheuil, 1983 Photograph by D. Boeno