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Exhibition of prints by Helen Frankenthaler makes its only northeast stop at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
Yellow Span, 1968. Sugar lift aquatint. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer, 2016.278. © 2017 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), West Islip, L.I., New York.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY.- Widely known for her iconic “soak-stain” canvases, acclaimed artist Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011) was an equally inventive printmaker who took risks in a medium not frequently explored by abstract expressionists. Fluid Expressions: The Prints of Helen Frankenthaler, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation highlights Frankenthaler’s often-overlooked, yet highly original print production. The exhibition is making its only northeast stop at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center October 6-December 10, 2017. This exhibition is free and open to the public.

Frankenthaler became well known through her large, almost 10-feet-wide oil painting, Mountains and Sea, made in 1952. In a breakthrough development, she poured thinned oil paints onto raw, unprimed canvas to suggest the Nova Scotia landscape. With an element of chance, the inks bled into the bare cloth in a dramatic play of watercolor-like washes, instinctual shapes, and receding space. Her pioneering, immediate approach widened the practices of abstract expressionists and went on to inspire Color Field abstract painters such as Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland and generations of future artists.

Frankenthaler made over 200 prints, and the earliest one in the exhibition is from 1968, executed during a printmaking revival in the US that is still going strong. The exhibition includes more than 25 prints made from a diverse range of techniques, including lithography, etching, aquatint, screenprinting, pochoir, Mixografia, and woodcut. The artist’s adaptation of her “soak-stain” aesthetic for the graphic medium offers a stunning look at how printmaking—notorious for being a slow process—can exude a sense of spontaneity and immediacy.

From splattered pigments to translucent layers of colorful ink, the radiant prints brought together in Fluid Expressions pulse with creative energy. "The Loeb is pleased to have the opportunity to show these beautiful and impressive prints by Helen Frankenthaler,” says Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Center. “She is such an important artist for the twentieth century and has inspired generations of contemporary artists through her open, experimental outlook and soak-stain process."

An innovator, Frankenthaler was interested in colors and the independent paths they took in both her paintings and prints. A collaborator with chance, she was intrigued with prints, and borrowed aspects of her painting technique to achieve her fluid style in the print medium. Just as she placed canvas on the floor in her studio, Frankenthaler often installed the print matrix on the floor in order to work directly over its surface. She poured pools of greasy ink onto the heavy Bavarian stone in making her lithographs, going with the flow of the ink itself. Unlike many print artists, Frankenthaler remained intimately involved throughout the print process: she chose the paper, mixed ink, approved registration, and even cut rigid woodblocks herself. Often made with dozens of colors, her woodcuts revived the medium in the 1970s.

The artist’s unconventional methods and close collaborations with printers allowed her to create prints with the same dynamism and sophistication as her gestural paintings. Prints in the exhibition were made with several print workshops, including Universal Limited Art Editions, Mixografia, and Tyler Graphics.

The exhibition is organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.

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