Description & Technical information

As has recently been noted by one scholar, ‘Helen Frankenthaler has spoken of the intimacy of the paper medium. Her late paintings on paper embody her belief in freshness, directness, openness, and immediacy…She has used papers tinted a wide range of colors. Some pieces were executed on Japanese paper and others on very unusual lawn grass paper. Frankenthaler has utilized brushes, sponges, rubber spatulas, and scraping devices. She has thinned her pigment so that it runs and pools…With all this variety, there is a powerful and consistent sensibility. It is present in her feeling for space and form, her unique choice of colors, and in the gestural signature of her body, arm, hand, and wrist.’

Although Frankenthaler continued to create vibrant, challenging works in various media well into the 21st Century, the paintings and drawings she produced after the 1989-1990 touring retrospective of her work are somewhat less well-known than those of the previous decades. This large sheet was drawn in 1994, during a period of a decade - between 1992 and 2002 - when Frankenthaler produced very few paintings and worked almost exclusively on paper. Speaking on the occasion of an exhibition of her works on paper from the decade of the 1990s, the artist has said that ‘I get lost, whatever medium I’m working in – painting, sculpture, works on paper, graphics…for the time I am totally into creating a work. I am obsessed and the energy flows, the adrenalin flows, the ideas flow. I can’t work fast enough and that’s great. As I said before, to push is hell…I know when I started all these works on paper not too long ago, the first few felt slow and unresolved and then suddenly something clicked and I couldn’t get them out fast enough and I wanted more and more paper. Every so often I’d tear one up and my studio assistant would tremble but that’s the way it goes.’

As the critic and curator Karen Wilkin has written of Frankenthaler, ‘Over more than half a century, Frankenthaler remained a fearless explorer in the studio, investigating a remarkable range of media. She adopted acrylic paint, on canvas and paper, early on, reveling in its intensity even when thinned to a stain and in the fact that it did not produce a “halo” effect, as happened with staining with oil paint.’

In the catalogue of a recent exhibition of Frankenthaler’s work from the 1990s, the art historian Thomas Crow has written that ‘One feels that Frankenthaler…never put down a stroke or floated a wash without at least some intuition of the likely associative meanings that every such gesture would carry when conjoined with its neighbors. Her images do not fall under the heading of pleasing approximations of observed phenomena; rather, they seem truer to sense impressions, to mental events that remained inchoate until discovered in the physical action of painting and thereby lent physical form.’

Date:  1994
Period:  Late 20th century
Medium: Acrylic on buff paper
Signature: Signed Frankenthaler in pencil at the lower right.
Dated Aug 94 and inscribed P94-29 in pencil on the verso.

Dimensions: 51 x 67.5 cm (20¹/₈ x 26⁵/₈ inches)
Provenance: Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Santa Monica, in 1995
Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, in 2000
Private collection, London.

Exhibitions: Santa Monica, Bobbie Greenfield Gallery, Helen Frankenthaler: Recent Prints and Paintings on Paper, 1995, unnumbered; London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Frankenthaler: On Paper 1990-1999, 2000, no.5.
Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints