Monday, April 1, 2013

PAINTED ON 21ST STREET Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959

Gagosian Gallery, in cooperation with the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler, is pleased to present a
major exhibition devoted to Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings from the 1950s. While Frankenthaler
is recognized to be one of the great American artists of the twentieth century, this exhibition is the
first in thirty years—and the first in New York City in more than fifty years—to offer a broad
survey of this pivotal body of work. It brings together almost thirty paintings, including important
yet rarely seen works from Frankenthaler’s estate, and signature works from public and private

“Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959” is curated by John Elderfield,
Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and a
consultant at Gagosian Gallery, who authored the principal monograph on Frankenthaler’s work in

Works in the exhibition range from the canvas from which the exhibition takes its title, Painted on
21st Street
(1950–51) to the celebrated Mountains and Sea, of 1952; to key paintings of the later 1950s, among them The Museum of Modern Art’s Jacob’s Ladder (1957), and the UC Berkeley Art
Museum’s expansive Before the Caves (1958). Together they offer a fresh look at the greater
range and diversity of a body of work too often viewed only within the context of Color Field
painting. It reveals how, in the 1950s, Frankenthaler was a major second-generation Abstract
Expressionist artist who advanced the methods of mid-century painterly abstraction. She did so
through the technical innovation of stain painting and by expansion of its affective range of subject
matter, drawing inspiration from a broad spectrum of sources, from landscape to the figure; from
paleolithic cave paintings to the work of the Old Masters; and from mythical scenes to childhood

The paintings in Frankenthaler’s first solo exhibition, in 1951, at age twenty-two, synthesized the
most radical aspects of the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky, with
their textured surfaces, washed with pale color and articulated by calligraphic drawing. The
following year she painted Mountains and Sea, a breakthrough composition created by pouring
thinned paint onto unsized canvas so that the paint soaked into the canvas, staining rather than
coating, to become at once the drawing and the coloring. The abstract Color Field painter Morris
Louis would famously remark that Frankenthaler’s Mountains and Sea was “the bridge between
Pollock, and what was possible,” but the staining in her own work is often accompanied by paint
drawn, scrawled, and splattered, and redolent with associations.

In 1954–55, she combined staining with areas of heavy impasto, prior to the greatest run of paintings she made in that decade, in 1956–59. Among these are the pastoral landscape-themed

Eden (1956),

and Dawn after the Storm (1957, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston);

re-imaginings of Old Master paintings, such as

Europa (1957);

and nursery-rhyme subjects, such as

Mother Goose Melody (1959, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts).

The final paintings in the exhibition, among them the large

Red Square (1959, Bennington College), reveal brighter colors and a more condensed, abstract vocabulary of forms.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully documented and illustrated catalogue with an introduction
by John Elderfield; a new, full chronology by Lauren Mahony, which draws upon previously
inaccessible archival sources; and important historical texts by the poet and art critic Frank O'Hara
(1960) and former Rose Art Museum director Carl Belz (1981).

Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011) was born in New York City. Her work is represented in
institutional collections worldwide, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Art Institute of
Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Centre
Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National
Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American
Art, New York. Solo exhibitions include “Helen Frankenthaler: Paintings,” The Jewish Museum,
New York (1960); “Helen Frankenthaler,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1969;
traveled to Whitechapel Gallery, London; Orangerie Herrenhausen, Hanover; and Kongresshalle,
Berlin), and “Helen Frankenthaler: a Painting Retrospective,” The Modern Art Museum of Fort
Worth (1989–90; traveled to The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum
of Art; and Detroit Institute of Arts). Frankenthaler was the subject of two eponymous monographs
by Barbara Rose (1972); John Elderfield (1989); and Frankenthaler: A Catalogue Raisonné of Prints
1961–1994 by Suzanne Boorsch and Pegram Harrison (1996).

GAGOSIAN GALLERY through Saturday, April 13, 2013
522 WEST 21ST STREET T. 212.741.1717
NEW YORK, NY 10011 F. 212.741.0006
GALLERY HOURS: Tue–Sat: 10:00am–6:00pm