April 22, 2019 - Helen Frankenthaler Foundation - PITTURA/PANORAMA: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992
April 22, 2019

Helen Frankenthaler Foundation

Helen Frankenthaler, Open Wall, 1953. Oil on unsized, unprimed canvas, 53 3/4 x 131 inches. © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Rob McKeever. Courtesy Gagosian.

Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992
May 7–November 17, 2019

Museo di Palazzo Grimani
Castello, 4858

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The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation and Venetian Heritage are pleased to announce an exhibition of Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings drawn from the Foundation’s collection. Titled PITTURA/PANORAMA: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992, this is the first presentation of her work in Venice since its appearance in 1966 at the American Pavilion of the 33rd Venice Biennale. It will be on view from May 7–November 17, 2019, at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Santa Maria Formosa, one of the most important cultural centers in Venice during the 16th century. Helen Frankenthaler was influenced in her use of color by the great Venetian artists of that period, making the venue particularly appropriate for this exhibition.

Helen Frankenthaler (19282011) has long been recognized as one of the great American artists of the twentieth century. Eminent among the second generation of postwar American abstract painters, her invention of the soak-stain technique played a pivotal role in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field painting. She then continually expanded the possibilities of her abstraction, using varied techniques and at times referencing figuration and landscape, as this exhibition reveals. It focuses on the relationship in Frankenthaler’s development of the pittura and the panorama: the interplay of works like easel paintings, although made on the floor, and large, horizontal paintings that open onto shallow but expansive spaces, in the way that panoramas do.

The exhibition was organized by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation and Venetian Heritage, in association with Gagosian. It was curated by John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and a Senior Curator at Gagosian. It features fourteen paintings covering a 40-year span of the artist’s career, with two to four works from each decade. It will be installed in a broadly but not strictly chronological sequence, revealing connections between works of different periods, and a development of both continuity and continuing change.

The display opens with canvases of 1952–53 that reveal Frankenthaler’s invention of the soak-stain technique of pouring thinned-down multi-colored oil paint onto raw canvas on the floor. In the 1960s, she moved on, first to compose with areas of bright, flat color and then to make sumptuously painted canvases, developing those two options in the following decade. By the early 1980s, the latter approach won out in paintings with monochromatic fields of atmospheric color superimposed with trails of more tangible pigment. From then into the 1990s, Frankenthaler’s spreading and layering of stained pigment created rich evocations of water and sky that ultimately look back to Venetian painting of the sixteenth century—doing so in a highly personal manner that also points ahead to the work of the many artists who take inspiration from her today.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by Gagosian, with a foreword by Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and Toto Bergamo Rossi, Director, Fondazione Venetian Heritage Onlus; a preface by Mr. Elderfield; and a comprehensive essay by Pepe Karmel, Associate Professor of Art History, New York University.

The exhibition venue, Palazzo Grimani, is a rare example of a Venetian palace that blends local architecture and Tosco-Roman decorative details, the creation of the brothers Vittore and Giovanni Grimani, famous collectors and patrons of the arts during the sixteenth century. Giovanni wanted the Tribuna, an actual “chamber of antiquities,” in order to exhibit the most valuable Greek and Roman statues in his collection. On his death, he donated the sculptures to the Repubblica di Venezia, as a result of which his collection left its original home in 1594. Now, 430 years later, they will be reinstalled on the palace’s first floor in an exhibition titled Domus Grimani 1594–2019, under the direction of Daniele Ferrara, Director of Polo museale del Veneto, and Mr. Bergamo Rossi. This will open in May 2019, along with the Frankenthaler exhibition on the floor above.

Helen Frankenthaler Foundation
Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, 1952–1992
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