Review: Helen Frankenthaler — Talley Dunn Gallery

[Originally published in The Dallas Morning News]



Helen Frankenthaler has an impeccable pedigree. She was born into a wealthy family in Manhattan, was sent to prestigious schools and traveled broadly. While this is mere background information, it jettisons the notion that artists need to live in squalor and endure childhoods of deprivation and marginal parenting.

Her works are deeply moving and her exquisite schooling becomes evident in her woodcuts. They operate with a subtle brand of Japanese finesse. Her sense of color and light is palpable and Geisha, circa 2003, is simultaneously feathery and lovely and a tad disquieting. Its reddish streaks stream down into a gold field that intimates a crash-and-burn radiance. Think exquisitely prepared sushi versus a gloriously charred piece of cow flesh. It’s delicately lovely yet still highly evocative. It literally drips with exotica.

Her work “Snow Pines,” is more lyrical and is a riveting form of play in the proverbial fields of joy. It’s made of looping green and linear pink tones and evokes a lovely abstract landscape.

Frankenthaler is firmly situated in the mix of painters who fostered the Abstract Expressionist and Color Field movements. As ancillary information, it’s interesting to note that she was married to Robert Motherwell for over a decade. However, all of that marvelously rich fodder would have been squandered had Frankenthaler not been so genuinely gifted. If you should doubt her talent, the woodcuts at Talley Dunn will immediately quell any notions of inadequacy. She’s a stellar talent and has been known as such for decades.


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