On 27th December 2011, the death of New York Abstract Expressionist Helen Frankenhaler was announced. The artist was 83 years old (b 1928 Manhattan USA) died at her home in Darien Conn. Frankenhaler, influenced by Pollock poured thinned oil paint which was diluted with turpentine directly onto canvas to achieve lyrical use of colour (her ‘soak stain’ technique). This technique, which was adopted by Pollock, Morris Louis (1912–1962), and Kenneth Noland (1924–2010 )helped lead and paved the way for a newer generation of abstract painting which became known as Color Field painting. Like Pollock, Frankenhaler also worked on the floor pouring diluted paint onto the canvas and allowing it to soak through to produce the illusionistic stains.
Her work was included in the 1964 exhibition Post Painterly Abstraction, which was curated by the critic Clement Greenberg who promoted Abstract Expressionism. Frankenhaler’s work has been exhibited over 6 decades (1950s onwards) and has had several retrospectives. She is also one of the artists I originally referenced when I first conceived the Echostains project in 2002. This year sees the 10th anniversary of my project which has just grown and grown! More news of this later in the year.
From Frankenhaler’s legacy to a rather curious and anonymous ‘gift’ which caught my imagination. Last year in an Edinburgh library, a series of sculptures began to appear. The first sculpture, placed on a table in the Scottish Poetry Library was most appropriately carved from paper, mounted on a book and bore a tag with the library’s Twitter account number on @byleaveswelive This is what it said;-
It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)
Next to the Poetree sat a paper egg with a scattering of words which when put together made up the sentence “A Trace of Wings’ by Edwin Morgan (see here) Despite local news coverage, no information has been found about the maker of the work.
Then in June 2011, another paper sculpture was received, the donor this time chose The National Scottish Library as it’s recipient. The sculpture is in the form of a gramophone and a coffin and is sculpted from a copy of Ian Rankin’s ‘Exit Music’ The tag reads;-
For @natlibscot – A gift in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. (& against their exit)
In these days of Kindle (smacks of Orwell’s 1984 to me) nothing beats the tactile thrill of holding, caressing, smelling, – the physical page turning, the owning of and even the dog earing of the physical object of a BOOK. A physical object that holds so much of our dreams, imagination and is our portal to another world. It’s wonderful that these paper sculptures should pay homage to this – long may they keep popping up!
There are more of these sculptures
Helen Frankenhaler’s obituary here and here
Frankenhaler portrait and more information about this artist here
Sky and Sea by Helen Frankenhaler from here
Paper sculpture Poetree image from here and gramaphone sculpture from here with thanks!
Information and more images are available from this site with thanks!
Barbera Hepworth’s birthday (January 10th) read my post about her here
Its back! The original and eclectic Bookstains!
8 thoughts on “Legacies; Goodbye Helen Frankenhaler”
I will examine more of her work
She’s new to me, but that was a fascinating read, Lynda.
I loved those paper sculptures! (But imagine dusting them!!)
They are really clever, especially the idea of making it out of a particular book. I could see that idea catching on – maybe Satis House made out of a copy of Great Expectations??
And nice to have a mystery too.
Satis House! Really like that idea Wendy 🙂 What about ‘Hatters Castle’ shaped like a hat like castle lol I hope more of these start appearing – what fun!
I read about these sculptures made of books and think they are wonderful, each and every one of them is so intricate and interesting! I agree with you! Long live the bound book! Excellent post and tribute!
I have a lot to catch up on Leslie. I will always love books, unfortunately I can’t seem to part with them – perhaps I should try sculpting them lol
Love Frankenthaler. She reminds me of Sylvia Plath somehow. Very romantic and creative. Thanks for posting this.
Thanks for reading artinpublicplaces. She was married to Robert Motherwell (1958 – 1971) and kept herself out of the limelight a lot, doing her own thing. She forged her own way in an art world dominated by men. Love her!