polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

Featured Artist: Helen Frankenthaler

by Peter Sigrist

Adding to our collection of featured artists, I wonder if paintings by Helen Frankenthaler would make good public murals. While she's known for using canvas backgrounds in interesting ways, her shapes and color combinations might also create lively walls in cities. Her work tends to come across as spontaneous and full of energy. She puts it best in explaining her ideal:

"For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it — well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that — there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me ... though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one ... [that] looks as if it were born in a minute." (From Frankenthaler by Barbara Rose, p. 85)

This reminds me of the way great places often come about — frequent attempts, some more successful than others, artistic but not overbearingly so, moving toward something satisfying.

Frankenthaler's paintings are on display at the John Berggruen Gallery in San Francisco until May 22nd. They've also inspired a series of nonobjective paintings by 5th graders at Stratton Elementary. It's curious to see kids learning abstract expressionism, as it seems like something they already do so naturally.

Credits: Image of Helen Frankenthaler's "Causeway" from the Anne Loucks Gallery.