In 1952, Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011) transformed abstract art with her first soak-stained painting, Mountains and Sea, which she made by pouring and brushing thinned out oil paint over raw canvas placed on the floor. Her deliberate movements from above resulted in abstract works that seem both intentional and spontaneous. A key figure in the development of color-field painting, she was a tireless experimenter with color, form, and technique over the course of her life.
When Frankenthaler began creating prints in 1961, she had to adapt to a medium that would involve collaboration and a new language of printmaking techniques. Asking questions that began, ‘Suppose I do…’ or ‘Suppose I try…’ she approached lithographs, screenprints, etchings, and woodcuts with curiosity and vision. Frankenthaler achieved the same balance of control and chance she cultivated in her painting practice through many annotated proofs, or trial prints, that traced her progress towards the final impression. She, along with other artists, contributed to a printmaking renaissance in the mid-20th-century, collaborating with master printmakers at studios like Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in Long Island, Mixografia in Los Angeles, and Tyler Graphics, Ltd. in Bedford Village and Mount Kisco, New York.
Without Limits: Helen Frankenthaler, Abstraction, and the Language of Print celebrates the generous gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation of ten prints and six proofs that span five decades of the artist’s career. Her work is joined by that of other artists in the Blanton’s collection using the medium of print to capture and translate their own abstract visions.
Organized by Christian Wurst, Curatorial Assistant, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Blanton Museum of Art; and Jana La Brasca, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in European Paintings, Prints, and Drawings, Blanton Museum of Art
Helen Frankenthaler, Japanese Maple, 2005, sixteen color woodcut from nine blocks on Torinoko paper, 26 x 38 in., Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, 2019 © 2021 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pace Editions, Inc., New York