A few days ago I went to visit the solo show of a great American artist: Sea Change by Helen Frankenthaler, at Gagosian. It was like taking a dip in history, like breathing an international air in one of the most famous galleries in the world. Sea Change is an exhibition that opens what will later be inaugurated at Palazzo Grimani in Venice, during the Biennale in May, and offers an interesting overview of the artist’s research between 1974 and 1983, years in which Frankenthaler begins to imagine a new path for her artistic career.
Great works, great paintings, great sensations. Echoes of the New York avant-garde and beyond. And yet Sea Change goes deeper, with a strong connection to water, as the title suggests: soft brush strokes and artworks of a very intense blue project us into immense oceans in which to immerse ourselves with body and mind. With the soul. Historic works such as Ocean Drive West, from 1974, are also exhibited for the first time in Rome.
A lot of color, a fundamental element for one of the standard bearers of “Color Field” like Frankenthaler. Growing up in the environments of abstract expressionism, the artist feels the latter so strongly as to invent a new technique, the soak-stain, which simulates the watercolor, in the final resolution, through oil colors. A revolutionary technique for its period, a strong revolution that still deceives us too. A technique that Frankenthaler refines throughout the years, as can be seen in Reflection of 1977, in which the colors come from above, descending and dissolving. Here, in fact, the contemplation of color is completely different.
The artist, who died in 2011, was one of the protagonists of “color as an actor” in contemporary art. This is why she used it in various dimensions, especially to excite. If we look at Twilight, from 1980, for example, we can observe the result of a great juxtaposition that simultaneously creates thickness and nuances.
Between the 1970s and the 1980s, after moving to Connecticut, she changed her conception of “color”. Getting in touch with water, with the sea, her research achieves new depths. The solo show in question paints before us a crucial passage towards the third dimension.
Helen Frankenthaler is one of the most important artists in the history of contemporary art. Sea Change closes in July, don’t miss the chance to visit it!
Sea Change, at Gagosian gallery, Rome. Artist on display: Helen Frankenthaler.