Western Dream

Helen Frankenthaler American

Not on view

Frankenthaler’s Western Dream presents a lyrical and hallucinatory suggestion of landscape, sky, breeze, heat, and turf, with hints of flora and fauna scattered throughout. The sights and sensations seem to shimmer, coming into being and quickly fading away—an effect of the artist’s innovative method of staining the canvas. The painting is nevertheless resolutely abstract, evolving the techniques of Jackson Pollock that had inspired her in the early 1950s and anticipating the practice of Color Field painters like Morris Louis and Sam Gilliam. Western Dream’s luminous surface and dense composition is achieved through a combination of careful drawing and painting by pouring, brushing, spreading, while strategically leaving passages of unpainted raw canvas "because the canvas itself acted as forcefully and as positively as paint or line or color…and [deciding] where to say this doesn’t need another line or another pail of colors. It’s saying it in space."[1]

[1] The artist quoted in Emile de Antonio and Mitch Tuchman, Painters Painting: A Candid History of the Modern Art Scene, 1940–1970, New York, 1984, p. 82.

Western Dream, Helen Frankenthaler (American, New York 1928–2011 Darien, Connecticut), Oil on unsized, unprimed canvas

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© Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Rob McKeever