Joan Semmel began her career as an Abstract Expressionist painter. After moving from New York to Madrid, Spain in 1963 to join her then husband—a civil engineer—her practice transformed. Responding to European art movements like Spanish Informalismo, Semmel’s painting evolved from the performative gestural bravura of Post-War American abstraction. She began to craft evocative compositions whose dense conglomerations of forms challenged traditional understandings of space. As Semmel elaborates, “My work gradually developed from broad gestural and spatially referenced painting to compositions of a somewhat surreal figure/ground configuration.” At the same time, her paintings' palettes of bright, saturated colors distinguished them from her Spanish contemporaries, who Semmel characterized as producing “darker, grayer and Goyesque” work.