About the Exhibit - Imagining Landscapes
Helen Frankenthaler’s exhibit, Imagining Landscapes at Gagosian’s Grosvenor Hill location in London, is an exhibit of thirteen paintings created during 1952–1976 (on view until June 17–September 18, 2021).
While the exhibit is highly edited, it features works from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation that have never been exhibited before. And while the works themselves are impressive, the curation of the exhibit perfectly captures the evolution of her style over time and how she grew as an artist.
When you first enter the gallery, you can see on the far left one of her earlier works, painting in 1952 that represents her pre-soak stain style where her lines and forms are more heavily pigmented.
As your eye scans the room you see her have a breakthrough, where she starts developing the soak-stain technique.
"I'd rather risk an ugly surprise than rely on things I know I can do." ~ Helen Frankenthaler
I personally think the works created during this time are the perfect combination of old and new - the colors are bold, but the mixture of textures thanks to the paint diluted with turpentine, provide a nice contrast to the eye.
When you enter the next room, it’s evident that these are later works, created in the 1960’s and 70’s. These works are also great examples of Color Field painting, where her work diverged from the “action” style of that of the other Abstract Expressionists like Jackson Pollock.
“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.” - Gagosian (source)
"There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about." ~ Helen Frankenthaler
This really is such a wonderful collection of Helen Frankenthaler works that pay tribute to her as an artist and how much she revolutionized something as traditional as a painting of a landscape.
“I had the landscape in my arms when I painted it. I had the landscapes in my mind and shoulder and wrist.” —Helen Frankenthaler
Video of the Exhibit
To see a walkthrough of the exhibit, skip ahead to 8:26 in the video below.
About the Artist - Helen Frankenthaler
Helen Frankenthaler was an American artist known for being a part of the Abstract Expressionism movement. She studied at Bennington College in Vermont, and is also known for being the partner of Robert Motherwell.
The subject matter of her works always tended to gravitate towards nature and landscapes (represented in an abstract way of course). She was inspired by Jackson Pollock’s method of laying a canvas down on the floor and working from above. She invented the ‘soak stain’ method, where she applied paint onto unprimed canvas and then diluted it with turpentine.
"In relations with people, as in art, if you always stick to style, manners, and what will work, and you're never caught off guard, then some beautiful experiences never happen." ~ Helen Frankenthaler
If you would like to learn more about Helen Frankenthaler and other influential artists of her time I highly recommend reading 9th Street Women.