Sterne was one of the only female “Irascibles,” a group of abstract artists (including Louise Bourgeois) who wrote an open letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1950 protesting the establishment’s “contempt” for “advanced art.” The term “abstract expressionism” was born soon after. Josef Helfenstein, contributor to Uninterrupted Flux: Hedda Sterne: A Retrospective, wrote of the artist:
From the very beginning of her outstanding but unknown career, Sterne maintained an individual profile in the face of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman, all of whom she knew personally. Her independence reflected an immense artistic and personal integrity. The astonishing variety of Sterne’s work, spanning from her initial appropriation of surrealist techniques, to her investigation of conceptual painting, and her unprecedented installations in the 1960s, exemplify her adventurous spirit. Yet, the heterogeneity of her styles, and her complete disinterest in the commercially driven art world, have contributed to her exclusion from the canon. When the heroic male narratives of modernism begin to fade, we may, eventually, be ready to recognize this amazingly idiosyncratic body of work. Sterne’s art is, indeed, a manifesto in favor of the untamable forces of the mind and the continually changing flux of life.