Andre Emmerich Gallery, New York, New York
Mary S. & Louis S. Myers, Akron, Ohio
Gift to Akron Art Museum, December 12, 1978
2013 - : Haslinger Galleries, 6/11/13 - , Akron Art Museum
2012 - 2013: "Post-Painterly Abstraction from the Akron Art Museum Collection" 10/27/12 - 2/17/13, Akron Art Museum
2007 - 2012: Haslinger galleries, 7/7/07 - 10/26/12, Akron Art Museum
2001: McDowell Gallery, 2/10/01 - 9/10/01, Akron Art Museum
1997 - 1998: "A 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 11/15/97 - 1/11/98, Akron Art Museum
1996: 3/23/96 - 9/11/96, Akron Art Museum
1992: "Lyrical Abstraction" 4/18/92 - 10/18/92, Akron Art Museum
1991 - 1992: "Focus on the Collection: A 70th Anniversary Celebration" 11/3/91 - 1/5/92, Akron Art Museum
1988: Collection Gallery 2/24/88 - 11/13/88, Akron Art Museum
1987: "Selections from the Permanent Collection" 5/15/87 - 11/15/87, Akron Art Museum
1985 - 1986: "Permanent Collection Gallery" Akron Art Museum
1979: "Acquistions '79" 6/30/79 - 9/2/79, Akron Art Institute (Museum)
1971: "The Structure of Color" 2/25/71 - 4/18/71, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Labels on back: 1) from Andre Emmerich Gallery with basic object info
2) from the Whitney Museum of American Art for the exhibition: The Structure of Color, Feb. 25 - April 18, 1971. Lent by Andre Emmerich Gallery.
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
Helen Frankenthaler's paintings radiate a powerful atmospheric light. According to the artist, "It's more than light as an element. It's a metaphysical, esthetic light. Every work of art that works, on paper or canvas, happens to have that common denominator. It is a combination of the artist, the medium and the magic—elaborate magic."1 The "magic" of Frankenthaler's art has continued to be the focus of critical acclaim since her major breakthrough in the early 1950s. Her catalytic work, which grew out of Abstract Expressionism, became seminal for the Color Field artists of the 1960s, such as Washington painter Morris Louis.
Frankenthaler's father was a New York Supreme Court Judge. Growing up in New York, she was nurtured in a learned and cultivated environment. In the early 1950s she formed a friendship with the prominent art critic Clement Greenberg and was catapulted into the city's heady world of Abstract Expressionism.
Frankenthaler's technical breakthrough occurred in l952 in the painting Mountains and Sea. After visiting Jackson Pollock and viewing his technique of pouring and dripping paint on canvas spread on the floor, Frankenthaler laid down a large piece of unprimed cotton duck, thinned her oil paint to the consistency of watercolor, and applied it to the canvas. This "soak-stain" technique was borrowed by a number of her contemporaries, in part because of its unique sense of space. The stained image appears to be neither in front of nor illusionistically behind the picture plane but is literally one with the canvas. Her paintings appear both flat and filled with atmosphere at the same time.
Frankenthaler continued to work with the canvas on the floor. Like her Abstract Expressionist predecessors, she formed the image spontaneously during the process of painting and exerted a high degree of control over the medium, making sophisticated judgments in relation to color, edge, and the cropping of the borders. In Wisdom the paint areas appear to flow naturally with curving rhythmic lines, while the central salmon-colored shape descends slowly and asymmetrically into the lower region of the canvas. Organized in three color areas, with subtle variations of primary colors, the painting is clearly controlled. The dominant shape establishes a central focus to the composition. The bold, simplified structural language of the painting relates it to new artistic currents of the times. In the early 1960s Frankenthaler switched from oil-based paints to acrylics, the paint used in Wisdom. Acrylics flood rather than stain the canvas, eliminate the turpentine halos sometimes seen with oil paints, and allow sharper lines and crisper contrasts.
Like the Abstract Expressionists, Frankenthaler titles her works after they are finished, using an associative process. That she titles her art suggests that to her content continues to be significant. Often her titles evoke nature, but Wisdom suggests a mental rather than a physical landscape. This title harks back to the psychological and mental content of much Abstract Expressionist and Surrealist art before it. The accidental process, practiced to different degrees by both Frankenthaler and Pollock, has its roots in the Surrealist technique of psychic automatism. Accident, and ultimately abstraction, are in part products of the unconscious. Referring to a l964 painting she said: "It's called Interior Landscape because that's what it is—an interior landscape—an abstract picture."2 The magic of Frankenthaler's radiant canvases is that they attest to the "wisdom" of her art and the enduring meanings to be found in abstraction.
- Mona Hadler, 2001
1. Helen Frankenthaler, quoted in Eleanor Munro, Originals: American Women Artists
(New York: Simon and Schuster, l976), 220.
2. Helen Frankenthaler, quoted in Carmean, 42.
Carmean, E. A. Jr. Helen Frankenthaler, A Paintings Retrospective. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989.
Elderfield, John. Frankenthaler. New York: Abrams, 1989.
Rose, Barbara. Frankenthaler. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1971.