Bernard Jacobson is please to announce the exhibition: Helen Frankenthaler: Paintings, in the New York gallery from March 4th to April 30th, 2014.

Helen Frankenthaler was an extraordinary force. At a time when women artists scarcely held a position in the Abstract Expressionist milieu, she quietly claimed the cutting edge for a female painter. Her work established a new aesthetic that took a step away from the grand standing of gestural painting to a cooler more contemplative approach. Sanctioned by Clement Greenberg as “post painterly abstraction,” the movement was later termed “color field”.

Frankenthaler’s innovative technique used thinned out washes of pigment and turpentine that were poured onto the flat raw canvas so that the paint soaked into the fiber, staining it. Her method emphasized the flat surface over illusory depth, creating open light filled luminous structures.

Allowing each work to stand as an individual investigation, Frankenthaler eschewed serial themes. In the current exhibition three large paintings from the 1980’s testify to the fecundity of her approach.

That she was influenced by landscape is clear in the painting, “Quattrocento.” Lush vibrant greens merge with subtle mauves. The translucent quality of the paint is conducive to the quietness of this monumental work. In “Bella Donna,” a reference perhaps to her Mother’s name and the plant, green is again the dominant hue, but the pigment is denser and the alignment vertical, suggestive of a more rigorous source for this abstract design. In the painting “For Chekhov,” it is hard not to see a dying seagull in the foreground. The surrounding elements have the feeling of a theatrical set, arches framing the action center stage.

In another grouping within the exhibition are five ceramic tile paintings. They are all titled, “Thanksgiving Day” and are part of a group that were created during one weekend in 1973 while visiting a ceramic studio in Upstate New York. Frankenthaler produced around one hundred tiles that weekend, each piece the same size and shape, (13 ½ x 17 ½ inches) but each a unique creation.

In this medium Frankenthaler allowed the glaze to run and bleed much as she might have allowed paint to flow on a canvas. Tighter horizontal lines frame the looser movement creating tension and dialogue.

Helen Frankenthaler was born in New York City on December 12, 1928. She died at her home in Darien, Connecticut on December 27th, 2011. She has been honored with retrospective exhibitions at the Jewish Museum, New York, in 1960; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1969; the Solomon R, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1985 (works on paper); and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989. Her awards and honorary degrees are too numerous to include here.

Bernard Jacobson Gallery
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