The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) presents Frankenthaler: Paintings on Paper (1949 – 2002) from February 14 to June 8, 2003. This major exhibition focusing on Helen Frankenthaler’s outstanding production of painting on paper throughout her career features over 80 works, including a number of early and recent paintings on paper, which have never been publicly exhibited.
Frankenthaler: Paintings on Paper (1949 – 2002) is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art and is curated by MOCA Director Bonnie Clearwater. Following its MOCA presentation, the exhibition will be on view at Edinburgh’s Royal Scottish Academy from August 13 to October 26, as one of the inaugural exhibitions in the Royal Scottish Academy’s new wing.
Painting on paper provides Frankenthaler with an arena for experimentation in gesture and control. Her love of paper started in childhood, and she has retained the creative freedom she experienced working on paper in those early years. Over the past 10 years, she has worked almost exclusively on paper and in a scale that sometimes rivals her large canvases measuring seven by six feet.
Intriguingly, Frankenthaler paints her canvases like watercolors and her works on paper like paintings. For her canvases, she often painted with the stain technique that she innovated during the early 1950s when she began thinning her pigments to the consistency of watercolor and pouring them onto unsized canvas.
In contrast, Frankenthaler’s paintings on paper tend to be opaque and layered with oil or acrylic paint and mixed media. Many of the paintings on paper are clearly coaxed into existence. Although they incorporate accidental drips and marks, they appear to have been worked on with intense labor and considerable calculation.
As Clearwater notes, "The most successful of Frankenthaler’s paintings on paper embody the elements of ‘great’ works of art or sublime moments in nature. They create an intense emotional experience."
By focusing on her rich body of painting on paper, this exhibition will redirect the conventional art historical emphasis on Frankenthaler’s stain technique to her career-long fascination with creating paintings that are arenas of convincing, thrilling space occupied by infinitely energetic and graceful forms.
Works in the exhibition are on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Museum of Modern Art (NY), The Brooklyn Museum of Art (NY), The National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Dallas Museum of Art (TX), and other institutions and private collections.
Frankenthaler: Paintings on Paper (1949 – 2002) is accompanied by a 112-page publication (hardcover, 96 color plates) with essay by Bonnie Clearwater.
Helen Frankenthaler was born in New York City on December 12, 1928. She attended The Dalton School in New York where she studied painting with Rufino Tamayo. In 1949, she graduated from Bennington College and went on to take courses at the Graduate School of Fine Arts at Columbia University. In 1950 through the noted art critic Clement Greenberg, Frankenthaler met artists David Smith, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, Barnett Newman and others.
She had her first solo exhibition at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1951, and painted her monumental painting Mountains and Sea in 1952. She received early recognition for her contribution to American abstract painting and had her first career survey exhibition at the Jewish Museum, New York, in 1960. Frankenthaler’s last full-scale retrospective was organized by E.A. Carmean, Jr., for the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, and premiered at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1989. She was the subject of a major monograph by John Elderfield published by Abrams in 1989. Frankenthaler is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the National Medal of the Arts in 2001.
Frankenthaler: Paintings on Paper (1949 – 2002) is made possible through the generous support of The Citigroup Private Bank.
Additional support is provided by Gillette, Funding Arts Network, Audrey and David Mirvish, Paula and Joel Friedland, The Braman Family Foundation, and Nancy and Michael Gifford.
"Ruth's Manet", 2002
Acrylic and collage on paper,
9 7/8" x 12 7/8"
2003 Helen Frankenthaler Collection of the artist
Photo Credit: Steven Sloman, 2003