“The Rake’s Progress”, 1991
“The Rake’s Progress”, 1991 (detail)
“Magnet”, 1992 (detail)
“Stella Polaris”, 1990
Currently at Gagosian in NYC is Helen Frankenthaler’s Drawing within Nature: Paintings from the 1990s. The exhibition includes twelve paintings and two large scale works on paper.
From the press release-
My pictures are full of climates, abstract climates, and not nature per se. But a feeling. And the feeling of an order that is associated more with nature. Nature in seasons, maybe; but nature in, well, an order. And I think art itself is order out of chaos.
Frankenthaler’s celebrated 1952 composition, Mountains and Sea, was the first of her soak-stained canvases and was highly influential in the development of 1960s Color Field painting. By the 1970s, though, she had amplified her methods to include the expressive possibilities of surface inflection and density. Over the course of the 1980s, highly painterly canvases became her principal pictorial means, soon resulting in, during what would be her final decade, canvases of the greatest dramatic impact of her entire career, some of an unexpectedly large size.
Drawing within Nature features works dating from 1990 through 1995, made following Frankenthaler’s paintings retrospective which opened in 1989 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Composed in her studios in New York; Stamford, Connecticut; and Santa Fe, New Mexico—where she held a summer teaching residency at the Santa Fe Institute of Art in 1990 and 1991—these abstractions are inspired by the artist’s experience of landscapes.
Works in the exhibition include Poseidon (1990), more than eight feet wide, which calls on qualities of Frankenthaler’s earlier soak-stained canvases to evoke ocean currents, with its wet-on-wet passages of aqua, white, and green. The even larger Stella Polaris (1990) sets streams and patches of dense cloudlike white paint beneath the starlight of its title. Western Roadmap (1991) transforms the desert rock and glowing sunsets of the American Southwest into a stratified abstraction that hangs within an almost nine-foot-wide panorama. Reef and Spellbound (both 1991) lay out washes of rich, glowing color of varying density across dark grounds. The verdant hues of The Rake’s Progress (1991) suggest a garden in bloom, and show how Frankenthaler began to use gel to thicken her paint as well as combing and raking tools to create tracks bearing the imprint of the energy passing over the surface.
Painted a few years later, in acrylic on large sheets of paper, Flirt and Aerie (both 1995) are less grounded in memories of landscape vistas. Rather, their open, cursive forms invoke vividly colored and magnified details of drawing within nature.
This exhibition closes 4/22/23.