Page 24 - Studio International - August 1965
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work  1s  about  some  glorious  space  where  events  of
                                                                                 differing qualities occur-collisions, harmonious coup­
                                                                                 lings, shocks and somnambulistic drifting.
                                                                                  Such  lyricism  was,  of  course,  unthinkable  without
                                                                                 the climate of surrealism and  Pollock's automatism.  It
                                                                                 worked  on  the  assumption  that  there  are  feelings  and
                                                                                 images that live just below the threshold of conscious­
                                                                                 ness  and  that  the  proper  moment  and  proper gesture
                                                                                 will materialise them in the form of a work of art. These
                                                                                 assumptions are still basic to Frankenthaler's esthetic.
                                                                                  The  variety  of  climates  she  seeks  within  a  single
                                                                                 painting  was  often  expressed  in  her  use  of  line.  The
                                                                                 white unsized  canvas that  was so important in  earlier
                                                                                 paintings  was  synonymous  with  air  and  with  free
                                                                                 extension.  Lines  which  often  swelled  to  forms  or
                                                                                 hovered  near  colour  areas  of  ambiguous  disposition
                                                                                 were projections of her feelings while navigating these
                                                                                 spaces. They had to do with 'standing in the middle and
                                                                                 letting things explode up and out'.
                                                                                  Colonising  emptiness,  Frankenthaler  used  sprays  of
                                                                                 paint,  drips,  lopsided circles,  dots and a host of small
                                                                                 elements to give variety of depth.  Hers was a close-up
                                                                                 vision of the warmth, the embracing,  intimate,  whole­
                                                                                 ness  of  a  specific  atmosphere.  Because  she  confined
                                                                                 herself  to  shallow  spaces  she  was  able  to  suggest
                                                                                 unlimited  extension  without  ever  giving  the  kind  of
                                                                                 ultimate  definition  that  makes  for  static  form.  If
                                                                                 lyricism  is synonymous  with  an art  of process,  she  is
                                                                                 a lyricist par excellence.  There is, she says, a great gap
                                                                                 between an idea and what evolves.
                                                                                  In  the  course  of  her  work,  there  have  been  certain
                                                                                 recapitulations.  On various occasions she has sized her
      Black w11h  Shadow 1961   t1on was strong,  immediate.  'When  I was first in  New  canvases  and  painted  with  a  more  charged  brush,
      76 X 87 in.
      Collection:  Mr.  &  Mrs.   York working I  went out toward what moved me most.   articulating her spaces more fiercely.  At times she has
      William  Phillips       DeKooning,  Gorky,  Pollock-I felt all at once:  I like it,   approached specific motifs,  particularly between 1956
                              it puzzles me, what does it mean and how do they do it 7'  and 1961, when objects and places are used to set off
                               Drawn  especially  to  Pollock's  work,  it was  not  long  the exploration of other more urgent feelings.
                              before  she  met  the  artist  in  his  studio  through  her   These other feelings are,  for the most part,  i nexpres­
                              friendship  with  critic  Clement  Greenberg.  She  saw  si ble in language, but many of those who have studied
                              paintings stretched out wet on the floor. The experience  her  work  have  sought  to  translate  the  pictures  into
                              'offered  the  beginning  of  a  whole  new  dimension'.  verbal currency. Often an association with landscape is
                               Stimulated by Pollock's example  Frankenthaler aban­  cited,  and  it  is  most  probable  that  Frankenthaler  is
                              doned the cubist system and by 1952 had invented the  peculiarly  susceptible  to  landscape  impressions.  Yet
                              means to express her excitement.  She set herself apart  seeing is a subjective affair and what Frankenthaler sees
                              not  only  in  terms  of  technique,  but  in  terms  of  the  is transformed by a subject in whom reciprocal impres­
                              special environment she conveyed in her paintings. She  sions, interiorised emotions, cross-references and meta­
                              was  able  to  do  this  because  she  saw  the  implicit  phorical  extensions  have  been  worked  upon  by  the
                              possibilities  in  Pollock's  approach.           imagination.  No single impression can be traced.
                               In putting unsized canvas on the floor,  working from   Since, for Frankenthaler, seeing something out there is
                              the  centre  outward,  dropping  pools  of  thinned  paint  immediately  transformed  into  a  sensation  of  moving
                              into  the  close  grain  of  the  canvas,  Frankenthaler  within  it,  she  is a  true exponent of the  'interior land­
                              charted  the  spaces  that  are  characteristic,  unique  to  scape'. The interior landscape is nothing other than the
                              her.  She was involved, as she said in a later interview,   space  of  all  time-the  space  in  which  we  know  our­
                              with  'making  a  picture  "hold"  an  explosive  gesture;  selves  existent-filled  with  emotions  and  events  and
                              something moving in  and  out of landscapelike depths  special  occasions.
                              but  flat  in  local  areas-intact  but  not  confined.'   Specific occasions in Frankenthaler's paintings may be
                               The  pale,  flowing  imagery  in  these  early  canvases  occasions  of  dreamlike,  softened  abstraction,  or  of
                              reflected  the  unprecedented  strangeness  of  the  new  glancing  allusions  to  humorous  objects,  to nudes,  to
                              approach. She had stood over her canvas. She had seen  interiors, to Eros both in his violent and pacific guises.
                              everything  from  above.  She  had  then  stretched  the   When  thematic materials emerged  rather  insistently,
                              canvas and placed it perpendicular to the floor. Already,  roughly  between  1957  and  1961,  Frankenthaler's
                              in  these  transactions,  a  spatial  decision  was  made  paintings  took  a  turn toward greater  equilibrium.  Her
                              which erased all previous perspectives.            Venus  and  the  Mirror  for  instance,  is  composed  in
                               As  she  travelled  over  the  large  areas  in  these  early  relation  to  a  decisive  horizontal  plane.  Despite  the
                              works, Frankenthaler modulated. At times an arabesque  many intonations.  the  various kind  of  events are  held
                              flowed  grandly  over  the  canvas;  at  times  lines  gave  by a dominant pictorial device.
                              way  to  suggestive  areas  of  shimmering  tone-pale   Here and in Nude of 1958 or Mother  Goose Melody,
                              ochres,  violets,  flesh  pinks.  The  lyricism  in  the  early   Frankenthaler  introduces  an  idea  which  gradually
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