When an artist dies young, it’s hard to know whether they’d already made their important work, or if they were still on the ascent with greater things ahead. In the case of Margaret Kilgallen, I think she was just beginning to make her best work when she died in 2001 from breast cancer after forgoing chemotherapy so that she could bring a child, daughter Asha, to term. At her death, Kilgallen was just 33.
The institutional art world embraced Kilgallen and her funky-smart mix of street art, typography and mural-painting early on: She was featured on the first season of art21 and in a 2005 retrospective organized by Eungie Joo and Clara Kim for Los Angeles’ REDCAT gallery.
Recently the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — Kilgallen’s hometown museum — acquired its first major Kilgallen: A huge, 11-foot-by-26-foot painting, pictured above. It’s tremendous.
More about SFMOMA’s new Kilgallen:
- I wrote about the painting on Modern Art Notes, where I broke down the art, artists and history Kilgallen mined for this piece.
- Kilgallen’s widower, Barry McGee, is my guest on this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast. Near the end of our conversation we talked about what he learned from his wife and about SFMOMA’s acquisition. Don’t miss it: Download the show directly to your PC/mobile device. Subscribe to The MAN Podcast via iTunes, RSS. See images discussed on the show.