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Helen Frankenthaler

After Abstract Expressionism, 1959–1962

June 9–September 16, 2017
Paris

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Installation view

Artwork © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Zarko Vijatovic

Works Exhibited

Helen Frankenthaler, Untitled, 1959–60 Oil and charcoal on sized, primed linen, 89 ¾ × 69 ¾ inches (228 × 177.2 cm)© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Helen Frankenthaler, Untitled, 1959–60

Oil and charcoal on sized, primed linen, 89 ¾ × 69 ¾ inches (228 × 177.2 cm)
© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Helen Frankenthaler, The Red Sea, 1959 Oil and charcoal on sized, primed canvas with painted wood frame, 69 ⅝ × 68 ½ inches (176.8 × 174 cm)© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Helen Frankenthaler, The Red Sea, 1959

Oil and charcoal on sized, primed canvas with painted wood frame, 69 ⅝ × 68 ½ inches (176.8 × 174 cm)
© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Helen Frankenthaler, First Creatures, 1959 Oil, enamel, charcoal, and pencil on sized, primed linen, 64 ¾ × 111 inches (164.5 × 281.9 cm)© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Rob McKeever

Helen Frankenthaler, First Creatures, 1959

Oil, enamel, charcoal, and pencil on sized, primed linen, 64 ¾ × 111 inches (164.5 × 281.9 cm)
© 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Rob McKeever

About

Gagosian is pleased to present Helen Frankenthaler: After Abstract Expressionism, 1959–1962. The first major exhibition of Frankenthaler’s work in Paris in more than fifty years, it includes paintings and works on paper, several of which have not been exhibited since the early 1960s.

Comprising fourteen paintings and two works on paper, the exhibition explores a radical, lesser-known body of work, picking up at the very end of the period in Frankenthaler’s career treated in Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959 at Gagosian West 21st Street in 2013. The works in the 2013 exhibition revealed Frankenthaler’s invention of the technique of pouring and brushing turpentine-thinned paint so that it soaked into raw canvas. In contrast, the current exhibition reveals her deliberate return to the gestural improvisation of Abstract Expressionism, as a way of moving her practice forward. John Elderfield, borrowing the term from an early critic, the poet James Schuyler, calls the first group of paintings from 1959–60 “think-tough, paint-tough,” characterized as they are by imposing scale and vigorously expressive brushwork. They include the mural-like, freely painted First Creatures (1959), an abstract, indeterminate landscape exhibited here for the first time, as well as Mediterranean Thoughts (1960), in which Frankenthaler’s looping skeins of poured paint create partitions of varying sizes, many filled, or almost filled, with several different colors, leaving very little exposed canvas.

By 1961–62, Frankenthaler had moved on to make paintings that were quieter and more calligraphic. Coinciding with her first forays into printmaking, graphic paintings like Italian Beach (1960) and May Scene (1961) employ an economy of line not commonly seen in her earlier works. Their simplicity is heightened by areas of canvas left bare, larger than those in the paintings of the 1950s. In some canvases in this group, the unpainted negative spaces are shaped like silhouettes of swans. When this imagery appeared in her work, Frankenthaler embraced it, saying: “At some point I recognized a birdlike shape—I was ready for it—and I developed it from there.”

This is the fourth exhibition of Frankenthaler’s work to be presented by Gagosian, following Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959, New York (2013); Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color, Paintings 1962–1963, New York (2014); and Line into Color, Color into Line: Helen Frankenthaler, Paintings, 1962–1987, Beverly Hills (2016).

The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual, fully illustrated catalogue, including a new essay by John Elderfield.

Gagosian est heureuse de présenter Helen Frankenthaler: After Abstract Expressionism, 1959–1962. Première exposition majeure de l’oeuvre de Frankenthaler à Paris depuis plus de cinquante ans, elle comprend des peintures et des œuvres sur papier qui, pour la plupart, n’ont pas été exposées depuis le début des années 1960.

Avec quatorze peintures et deux œuvres sur papier, l’exposition explore un ensemble radical et moins connu de son œuvre, s’attachant à la toute fin de la période de la carrière de Frankenthaler présentée lors de l’exposition Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959 à Gagosian West 21st Street, en 2013. Les œuvres présentées dans l’exposition de 2013 révélaient l’invention de la technique de Frankenthaler consistant à verser et à appliquer de la peinture diluée à la térébenthine afin qu’elle détrempe la toile brute. A l’inverse, la présente exposition révèle son retour délibéré à l’improvisation gestuelle propre à l’Expressionisme Abstrait, comme un moyen de faire avancer sa pratique. John Elderfield, empruntant le terme au critique et poète James Schuyler, dénomme le premier ensemble de peintures datant de 1959–60 «think-tough, paint-tough» (pensée dure, peinture dure), caractérisé par une échelle imposante et un travail au pinceau vigoureux et expressif. Parmi ces peintures, on peut compter l’œuvre aux allures murales, First Creatures (1959), librement peinte, et paysage abstrait et indéterminé exposé ici pour la première fois ; ainsi que Mediterranean Thoughts (1960), dans laquelle des boucles d’écheveaux de peinture versée créent des partitions de tailles variées, de nombreuses étant remplies, ou presque remplies, avec plusieurs différentes couleurs, laissant peu de toile à découvert.

À partir de 1961–62, Frankenthaler a évolué pour réaliser des peintures plus discrètes et plus calligraphiques. Coïncidant avec ses premières incursions dans la gravure, les peintures graphiques telles que Italian Beach (1960) et May Scene (1961) emploient une économie de lignes rarement observée dans ses premières œuvres. Leur simplicité est intensifiée par des espaces de toile laissés nus, plus importants que ceux des peintures des années 1950. Sur certaines toiles de cet ensemble, les surfaces négatives brutes sont formées telles des silhouettes de cygnes. Lorsque cette imagerie est apparue dans son œuvre, Frankenthaler l’a adopté en disant «à un moment j’ai reconnu une forme ressemblant à un oiseau—j’étais prête—et je l’ai développé à partir de là».

Ils’agit de la quatrième exposition de l’œuvre de Frankenthaler présentée par Gagosian, après Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959, New York (2013); Helen Frankenthaler: Composing with Color: Paintings 1962–1963, New York (2014); et Line into Color, Color into Line: Helen Frankenthaler, Paintings, 1962–1987, Beverly Hills (2016).

L’exposition est accompagnée d’un catalogue bilingue, entièrement illustré, comprenant un nouvel essai de John Elderfield.

From the Quarterly