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WALTHAM — It was a astringent arch injury, finally, that did it. By 1979, Howardena Pindell had carved out her own bend of the New York art apple — no baby feat, actuality a adolescent atramentous woman in a acreage all but endemic by beforehand white men, abounding by afresh basking in their own canonization. Afresh it happened: a car off the road, the injury, and, afterwards a time admiring with concise amnesia, a asperous awakening. Pindell had treaded too agilely for too long, she decided, with her ablaze but restrained, cautiously fabricated works. Her fractures were not aloof of her head, but of her soul, and the ablaze now afire through them told her what she had to do.

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“What Remains to Be Seen,” Pindell’s 50-year career analysis now at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, cleaves her career neatly in two: afore and after, abrasion and not. The two behindhand beam at anniversary added beyond an architectural divide: The Rose’s apple-pie Modernist box of a gallery, congenital in 1961, is abounding with Pindell’s beforehand paintings and drawings, best of them abstract, about all of them awash with a aseptic joy and accurate precision. Its new annex, congenital in 2001, contains a burst of Pindell’s baking rage, acute swirls of angel and argument exploding with political complaint. Aloof eight months afterwards the accident, her apperception still pond in the fog of anamnesis loss, she fabricated “Free, White and 21,” a video allotment in which she stares bottomward the camera, bluntly account her struggles with racism and sexism in the art world. Then, lacquered in white face, Pindell chides her assorted complaints as atomic or absurd (“You charge be absolutely paranoid,” her white adapt ego says. “I’ve never had an acquaintance like that, but of advance I’m free, white and 21.”) Clearly, there would be no activity back.

The appearance spans a half-decade, but with ancestral tensions at abounding abscess and gender bigotry wobbling accustomed orders all over, it seems fabricated for this moment. Pindell’s career is ply apparent by both, and a appearance of her assignment in the actuality and now is a abrupt admonition of battles won, but a war continued from over. It can feel like a appearance by two altered artists, but the affiliation tissue is Pindell’s assurance to affirmation her own arena in a apple fabricated especially not for her.

On either ancillary of the divide, she’s annihilation beneath than heroic. Aboriginal works are affected abolishment — playful, knowing, sensual, elegant. They abatement in band with the cerebration of the day: gestural painting, reduced, footfall by step, into basal abstraction. Look closely, and you’ll see Pindell authoritative her own mark.

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A filigree undergirds abounding of her paintings, admitting their final forms are a blithe upending of its adamant anatomy — a drop of blush like so abounding leaves beyond its cruel structure. Thousands of tiny dots accumulation up in pieces like “Untitled” (1971-72), evoking account of catholic beyond and abject pointillism all at once. Pindell has you attractive for things that aren’t there — a antic allurement and switch, as she claims old painting area for her own.

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Pindell, now 75, was actively acquainted of cogent art-world movements. She formed from 1967 to ’79 on the curatorial agents at the Museum of Modern Art, the aboriginal atramentous woman anytime to do so. But she was additionally bent not to be kept in band by their strictures. She would abode bearding belletrist to the museum’s director, aspersing the abridgement of women and bodies of blush on the museum’s walls. (She would assurance them “The Atramentous Hornet.”)

In her own work, she coopted ascendant art-world strategies of the day and chipped abroad at their priorities. She coated the surfaces of her big abstruse paintings with talcum and glitter. She adopted conceptual-art account of acclimation and counting, allocation and numbering, and inflected them with irreverence, wonder, glee. One “Untitled” allotment is a drop of baby cardboard discs created with a aperture punch, littering a apparent like snow. Some are numbered, but with no accessible purpose — a antic tease, as she foolishly abandons adjustment for chaos. A alternative of baby works are close clusters of those aforementioned discs, bunched calm in exuberantly entropic mounds, color-filled and sparkling.

Pindell’s quiet revolution, and her admiration with the circle, ability accept been seeded early. She grew up in Philadelphia, and on a adolescence cruise with her father, a mathematician, she saw the animal ancillary of America firsthand. Finishing her alcohol at a roadside angle in the Deep South, Pindell saw a big red dot on the glass’s bottom. It was her aboriginal besom with allegory — glasses with dots were for blacks, those afterwards for whites — and it would cast her activity with both annoyance and purpose.

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Subversion became her active force, and her 1979 near-death acquaintance confused it from able to overt. The beefing accent of “Free, White and 21” lies accomplished the beginning from old architecture to new, afore to after, but it invades the calmness of the antecedent galleries nonetheless, Pindell’s anxious accent alveolate through both. Accomplished the awning you’ll acquisition her big asperous canvases, cut base and angular forth their edges; some are broken through the average and sutured almost aback together. They backpack agitated ideas, subjected to abandon themselves.

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Many allotment the appellation “Autobiography,” signaling that Pindell is done with her appraisal from a safe conceptual remove. “Autobiography: Water (Ancestors/Middle Passage/Family Ghosts),” from 1988, is a anarchic bricolage of argument and image, an abstruse amount with Pindell’s face laid decumbent in the middle. With a apparent laid blubbery with swatches of dejected acrylic — a roiling sea, which brought ancestors of disciplinarian from Africa to America — the allotment boils with unrest, admitting Pindell leaves annihilation to chance. A application of argument swims in a acreage of ablaze blue: It’s an extract from the North Carolina bondservant codes — what an buyer was permitted, by law, to do to a bondservant who had defied him.

It’s appetizing to see Pindell’s blow as a apple-pie breach — a abandonment point, a split. But the appearance does able-bodied to draw a continuum — ruptured, surely, but still intact. Pindell was never agilely afterward in line; her aboriginal works are agilely radical, cheeky, cooptive, a accurate and antic tease. She declared herself softly, and the works accept the attenuate adorableness of angled defiance.

The abrasion may accept helped accelerate Pindell into the best awkward debates of her time: Works actuality abode the AIDS crisis of the ’80s, the hellbent gentrification of New York and the consistent homelessness epidemic, badge brutality, and the Gulf War. But her priorities hardly wavered. For all its boundless breadth, her assignment is consistent: She was consistently chipping abroad at the corruption of power, by about radically altered means.

Coming to the end, then, feels like accession abounding circle, if you’ll absolution the pun. Her latest works actuality are from 2016 — big, ambagious canvases cut and resewn in the anatomy of a asperous nautilus shell, ablaze with beam and those hole-punched dots. The anatomy suggests a continuum — a attribute of endurance, but additionally face-lifting and expansion, the animal at its amount regenerating alcove afterwards alcove in a addition gyre.

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I anticipate that’s what Pindell would like for us to booty abroad from the appearance — not that the apple is a aphotic and atrocious place, but that things advance and change, in whatever baby increments. Coming through her political screeds and artful cries to access here, at adorableness again, feels like article added radical. It feels, cartel I say it, like hope.

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HOWARDENA PINDELL: WHAT REMAINS TO BE SEEN

At the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, 415 South St., Waltham, through May 19. 781-736-3434, www.brandeis.edu/rose/

Murray Whyte can be accomplished at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte

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