Extended through September 18, 2021
I had the landscape in my arms when I painted it. I had the landscapes in my mind and shoulder and wrist.
Gagosian is pleased to present Imagining Landscapes: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1976, an exhibition of thirteen paintings from the collection of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, several of which have never been exhibited before.
The references to landscape that are inherent in these paintings shift between subtle and explicit, as critic E. C. Goossen observed in 1958. All are characterized by an extraordinary variety of line and color. The earliest of them—painted in 1952, before Frankenthaler’s breakthrough development of soak-stain painting later that year with Mountains and Sea—is the work of an already mature artist: an invented panorama with suggestions of palm fronds and mountain peaks. The next belongs to a small group of canvases with drawn forms that Frankenthaler painted on her honeymoon with Robert Motherwell in the southwest of France. And four canvases from 1961—Fable, Beach Scene, Square Figure, and After Rubens—show her simplifying her drawing and making it more calligraphic, even as she continued to create figural as well as landscape references.
In three canvases from 1963, a major change is evident in Frankenthaler’s approach. Juxtaposed areas of lush stained color replace the lines of the earlier paintings, their irregular borders evoking the boundaries of natural forms. The titles of these works—Narcissus, Yolk, Sea Goddess—invite interpretation of their sometimes aqueous, sometimes cloudy forms in the manner that Leonardo da Vinci advised painters to look at stained walls and see in them images of the natural world. Even as Pop art was recuperating explicit depiction, and Color Field painting purist abstraction, Frankenthaler maintained in her own way an art of allusion—the richness of ambiguous reference—and cultivated a complexity akin to the volatility of the physical universe.
In the imposingly large Cape Orange of 1964, Frankenthaler advances this approach with flatter, more opaque color to a bolder effect, suggesting a topographical map. And the pair of canvases from 1971, Orange Hem and Red Travels, simplify the effect further, evoking details of landscape seen from above—perhaps, the movement of water around an obstruction and a view into a cleft or onto a stretch of coastline, respectively. In both cases, the rectangle of the canvas substitutes for a framed view. The final work in the exhibition, Sphinx (1976), reintroduces earlier features to the format, reprising the bipartite structure of Narcissus (1963), with memories of the fluid, centralized composition of Mountains and Sea.
A catalogue featuring a new essay by art historian Robert Slifkin along with three historical texts will be published to accompany the exhibition. In conjunction with Imagining Landscapes, the Davies Street gallery will present a sculpture from a series Frankenthaler made in Anthony Caro’s London studio in the summer of 1972 and a selection of Frankenthaler works on paper. In addition, a room of paintings by Frankenthaler is installed at Tate Modern, London, until November 2021. Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beauty, the first major UK exhibition of the artist’s woodcut prints, will open at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, on September 15, 2021.
20 Grosvenor Hill
London W1K 3QD
Hours: Monday–Saturday 10–6 by appointment
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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.
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.
Wyatt Allgeier pays homage to the renowned gallerist and artist Betty Parsons (1900–1982).
Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown
Lise Motherwell, a stepdaughter of Helen Frankenthaler and vice president of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and Elizabeth Smith, executive director of the Foundation, recently cocurated an exhibition of the artist’s work entitled Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown. Here they discuss the origin of the exhibition, the relationship between the artist’s work and her summers spent in Provincetown, and the presentations at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, in 2018, and the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, in 2019.
On the occasion of the exhibition Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992, at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Venice, Italy, art historians John Elderfield and Pepe Karmel discuss the concept of the panorama in relation to the artist’s work. Their conversation traces developments in Frankenthaler’s approach to composition, the boundaries and conventions of abstraction, and how, in many ways, her career continually challenged established theories of art history.
A Sculpture and a Selection of Works on Paper
June 17–August 27, 2021
Davies Street, London