Gagosian is pleased to present its first exhibition of Helen Frankenthaler’s work organized in collaboration with the newly established Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. This follows the gallery’s critically acclaimed 2013 exhibition, Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959, which was organized with the artist’s estate.
The exhibition focuses on a brief but critical period in Frankenthaler’s career—in 1962 and 1963—when she “composed with color” rather than with line, resulting in the freer compositions that came to exemplify her long and prolific career. Transitioning from the sparer, more graphic works of 1960 and 1961, Frankenthaler made paintings that more readily filled the space of the canvas, moving toward what critic B. H. Friedman described as the “total color image” that would become a hallmark of her later work. Included in the exhibition are Cloud Bank, Hommage à M.L., and Cool Summer (all 1962), in which she employed a limited number of linear elements, linking them to her innovative stain paintings of the 1950s while marking a new direction with the use of spreading areas of color and a reassessment of the properties of painting materials.
Three paintings in the exhibition—Filter, Gulf Stream, and Moat (all 1963)—belong to a series of works that include imprints of the floorboards of Frankenthaler’s studio. As she recalled of this technique, “I did a whole series of pictures . . . that I reversed; in other words they stained through and then I worked on them again from the other side.” During this period, Frankenthaler also began experimenting with acrylic paint, sometimes employing both acrylic and oil in a single canvas. Gulf Stream, one example of this method, features delicately layered passages of oil paint surrounded by denser expanses of vivid acrylic paint, a framing device that she would continue to explore the following year.
The culmination of Frankenthaler’s experimentation with acrylic paint is represented by two large-scale paintings, Pink Lady and Sun Shapes (both 1963). With their large expanses of intense hues that nearly fill the canvas, both paintings anticipate the development of her abstract vocabulary throughout the remaining years of the 1960s.
The exhibition, curated by John Elderfield, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introductory essay by Elizabeth Smith, executive director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. The essay provides an in-depth examination of Frankenthaler’s development during this critical two-year period and places these works within the context of American art in the early 1960s.
John Elderfield and Elizabeth Smith
John Elderfield and Elizabeth Smith discuss the paintings of Helen Frankenthaler on the occasion of Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color, Paintings 1962–1963.
Katy Hessel, Matthew Holman, and Eleanor Nairne on Helen Frankenthaler
Broadcaster and art historian Katy Hessel; Matthew Holman, associate lecturer in English at University College London; and Eleanor Nairne, curator at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, discuss Helen Frankenthaler’s early training, the development of her signature soak-stain technique and subsequent shifts in style, and her connections to the London art world.
Helen Frankenthaler: A Painter’s Sculptures
On the occasion of four exhibitions in London exploring different aspects of Helen Frankenthaler’s work, Lauren Mahony introduces texts by the sculptor Anthony Caro and by the artist herself on her relatively unfamiliar first body of sculpture, made in the summer of 1972 in Caro’s London studio.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2021
The Summer 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Carrie Mae Weems’s The Louvre (2006) on its cover.
Augurs of Spring
As spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, Sydney Stutterheim reflects on the iconography and symbolism of the season in art both past and present.
Building a Legacy
The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation on COVID-19 Relief Funding
The Quarterly’s Alison McDonald speaks with Clifford Ross, Frederick J. Iseman, and Dr. Lise Motherwell, members of the board of directors of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and Elizabeth Smith, executive director, about the foundation’s decision to establish a multiyear initiative dedicated to providing $5 million in covid-19 relief for artists and arts professionals.
Composing with Color: Paintings 1962–1963
Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color: Paintings 1962–1963 is available for online reading from June 20 through July 19 as part of the From the Library series. This catalogue records a 2014 exhibition of eleven paintings made in a brief but critical period in Frankenthaler’s career when she “composed with color” rather than with line, producing for the first time the freer compositions that would come to exemplify her long and prolific career. An essay by Elizabeth A. T. Smith provides an in-depth examination of Frankenthaler’s development during this period, including her transition from oil to acrylic paint, and places these works within the context of American art in the early 1960s.
Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color: Paintings 1962–1963 (New York: Gagosian, 2014)
A Sculpture and a Selection of Works on Paper
June 17–August 27, 2021
Davies Street, London
After Abstract Expressionism, 1959–1962
June 9–September 16, 2017
rue de Ponthieu, Paris