Southern Exposure

Artist: Helen Frankenthaler
Medium: Screenprint in colors
Title: Southern Exposure
Year: 2005
Edition: 54/128
Sheet Size: 30 1/2" x 37"
Signed: yes, in pencil
 

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Southern Exposure

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Artist Biography

Helen Frankenthaler was born on December 12, 1928 into a wealthy family in Manhattan New York, New York. Her family recognized and supported her artistic talent and began her education at a young age. She attended the progressive Dalton school as a child and continued to study with influential abstract and surrealist painter Rufino Tamayo in her teenage years. She attended Bennington college at the age of sixteen and studied under Paul Freely, who was very influential in curating abstract expressionist exhibitions.

She attributes her family vacations in the summers as the beginnings of her great reverence for the landscape, sea and sky. All of these subjects are seen throughout her life’s work consistently even as she continued to experiment with a wide variety of techniques and materials.

In 1952 Frankenthaler created what would be her first highly recognized piece, Mountains and Sea. This piece was the beginning of her unique soak-stain technique in which oil paints are thinned with turpentine and poured over and an unprimed canvas. This innovative technique created large fields of bright translucent color and seemed to expand the work far beyond the confines of the canvas. Her words beautifully illustrate how she created these innovated pieces; “A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once. It's an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute."

Frankenthaler’s new technique of soak-stain was so influential it received its own stylistic genre, Color Field paintings. The innovative nature of her paintings prompted painters Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland to create the Color Field school of painting. Her work was hailed and the next step of modern painting and a catalyst of the future of art. “A bridge between Pollack and what was possible,” Morris Louis said.

Frankenthaler believed in continuously evolving as an artist which is evident in her expansive and diverse works throughout her 50 year career. In 1961 she began creating prints, first experimenting with lithographs before creating woodcut prints in 1976. Her woodcuts were able to achieve the translucent opulence of her paintings. Her Woodblock print, Madame Butterfly, is seen as the pinnacle of her career. This exquisite print of 102 colors and 46 woodblocks is significant for its ability to conceptually embody a piece that is created “all at once.”

In 1972 Art Critic Barbera Rose praised Frankthaler’s work for “the freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind, but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.” She was the recipient of the National Medal of the Arts in 2001. Helen Frankenthaler died December 27, 2011