A daring and fierce innovator, Helen Frankenthaler was only 24 when she made her acclaimed abstract work Mountains and Sea (1952). Her pioneering paintings—made by pouring thinned paint onto untreated canvases laid out on the floor, allowing the turpentined tints to flow and seep and blend together—were part of the first wave of the Color Field movement. Far from precise, top-down executions of vision, these pieces were improvisations, flirtations with chance.
Printmaking is a notoriously time-intensive medium associated with realism and staid intentionality. When Frankenthaler decided to apply her techniques and panache to printmaking, she tore open the medium’s possibility, renewing its relevance in the process. She once said, “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.”
In her career, she made over 200 prints, experimenting with lithography, etching, aquatint, screen printing, pochoir, and Mixografia. Frankenthaler poured greasy ink on print matrices set up on the ground, often using dozens of colors per print, infusing them with a dynamism and spontaneity that eluded previous printmakers.
Over 25 of Frankenthaler’s prints will be on display at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center as part of touring exhibit “Fluid Expressions: The Prints of Helen Frankenthaler, from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.” The exhibition opens on October 6 will be on display through December 10.