A towering figure in American painting of the 20th century, Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) stands as one of the preeminent artists of the post-war period. Her unique practice of pouring and staining paint into the raw canvas fused a fluid paint process that united color and movement into an emotional whole. These lyrical abstractions of sensuous color, light, and space from the 1950s changed the course of post-war painting, and set the foundation for the Color Field painting movement.
When Frankenthaler turned to printmaking in 1961, she brought the same independence of spirit and challenging of convention to the process-bound world of the print atelierjust as her radical stain and poured technique had been to paintingin order to create new methodologies of production that would allow and capture the act of spontaneous expression essential to her vision as an artist. She became the significant force among abstract artists in the mid-century in the American print renaissance of the 1960s and 1970s when printmaking moved to the forefront of contemporary aesthetic dialogue.
As the print evolves, it tells you, you tell it. You have a conversation with a print. --Helen Frankenthaler, 1988
The exhibition, drawn from the holdings of the Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation and curated by Bruce Guenther, OJMCHE adjunct curator of special exhibitions, presents a cross section of Frankenthalers work in the four major print medialithographs, intaglio, screenprints, and woodcutsthat showcase her innovation and original contribution to printmaking. We are forever grateful to Jordan Schnitzer for so generously loaning us these works, notes OJMCHE Director Judy Margles. Let us all take time away from the barrage of news about our fractured world and absorb the beauty of Frankenthalers art.
The 17 featured works range from Frankenthalers first print in 1961 to her groundbreaking work in woodcut culminating in the seven-foot long, masterpiece Madame Butterfly. The exhibition is especially rich in woodcuts, which was the last of the four print media picked up by Frankenthaler and the one in which she virtually reinvented the rigid historic process to incorporate the vital energy and flux of her signature paintings. Among the most beautiful prints made in the twentieth century, Frankenthalers woodblocks are considered her original contribution to printmaking and universally acknowledged as rejuvenating the oldest print form for contemporary art.
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
Helen Frankenthaler, Works from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
December 3rd, 2023 March 24th, 2024