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Helen Frankenthaler in the 1960s and 1970s

December 16, 2014

Helen Frankenthaler (right) and seminar students at Skidmore College’s Summer Art Program, 1973. Image courtesy of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

While Helen Frankenthaler is rightfully lauded as a brilliant colorist, her engagement with the classroom as a space of working through the whys and hows of painting alongside the next generation of artists is less well documented. However, her numerous seminar and other speaking and teaching engagements—some of which were recorded at the time on reel-to-reel tape and cassettes and just recently digitized and transcribed by the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation—evince a sincere passion for intimately scaled conversations with student artists, interactions where she asked as many questions as provided answers.

During a session at Yale University in 1970 she spoke at length about “the present and future of easel painting, and where it’s at and where it’s going.” She continued, “I don’t mean pictures, literally, that are easel-size or on an easel, but I mean pictures generally made on canvas, on a flat, rectangular surface that has four corners, or maybe three corners now. But painting, as we know the development of painting to be. I think there’s a lot more room for development, and that the best of it is going someplace.”

The exhibition catalogue for Giving Up One’s Mark: Helen Frankenthaler in the 1960s and 1970s, featuring an in-depth essay by Chief Curator Emeritus Douglas Dreishpoon, is now available for purchase in Shop AK.