Imagining Landscapes: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler at Gagosian
Updated: Jul 16, 2021
Gagosian brings together thirteen paintings from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, several of which have never been exhibited before, in a unique exhibition titled "Imagining Landscapes: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1976."
"I had the landscape in my arms when I painted it. I had it in my mind and shoulder and wrist." (Helen Frankenthaler)
Accurately described by Jonathan Jones from The Guardian "like a Rothko dancing wildly to jazz," this body of works reaffirms Frankenthaler's dexterity in cultivating a richness akin to "the volatility of the physical universe."
"A line, shapes, colour, spaces, all do one thing for and within themselves, and yet do something else, in relation to everything that is going on within the four sides [of the canvas]. A line is a line, but is [also] a colour. . . . It does this here, but that there. Although the canvas surface is flat, the space extends for miles. What a lie, what trickery - how beautiful is the very idea of painting." (Helen Frankenthaler)
One of the most influential artists of the mid-20th century, Frankenthaler's creations' inherent references to landscape shift between subtle and explicit are dominated by an extraordinary variety of colour and line, before and after her breakthrough development of the "soak-stain" painting technique which refers to pouring turpentine-thinned paint onto the canvas to produce luminous colour washes that seem to merge with the canvas and deny any illusion of three-dimensionality.
Four canvases from 1961 - Beach Scene, Square Figure, Fable, and After Rubens - show her attempts to simplify her drawing style to make it more calligraphic, without leaving landscape and figural behind.
The way Narcissus, Yolk, and Sea Goddess invite interpretation of their somehow cloudy, aqueous forms hints at how Leonardo da Vinci advised painters to look at stained walls and see pictures of the natural world.
Frankenthaler was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, while her innovation gave rise to the Colour Field Painting movement, intensely promoted by the influential art critic Clement Greenberg as the American art's "next big thing." These airy compositions honoured the joys of pure colour by giving canvases a whole new look and feel.
In her later creations, lines are replaced by juxtaposed areas of lush stained colour whose irregular borders evoke the boundaries of natural forms. And even as Color Field painting was recuperating purist abstraction, and Pop art explicit depictions, Frankenthaler didn't abandon her art of allusion.
You can also see photos of the Gagosian exhibition here, on the @withinlondon Instagram account.
📆 Until September 18, 2021.
📍 Gagosian Gallery, 20 Grosvenor Hill, London
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