Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mary Heilmann: Tell, don't Ask

This week the Guggenheim held its Art Awards ceremony, and the Artist of the Year was Mary Heilmann. 

I'm enjoying exploring her work. It ranges in approach and concept, but even her most hard-edged, geometric paintings are executed with a painterly vigor.

Instead of asking "Is this okay? Did I do it right?" Heilmann tells us "This is how it is."

She also obviously knows that for a lively, spontaneous-seeming painting to work, it must be rigorously planned.

Here is Mary Heilmann with "Two-Lane Blacktop".

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Helen Frankenthaler's woodcuts

Today while sitting in the reading room of the print studio at Pratt after a long day of teaching, I came across a book of Helen Frankenthaler's woodcuts. 

Frankenthaler's paintings, famous for their poured oil washes and idiosyncratic marks and layers, seem like unlikely candidates to be turned into woodblock prints. 

Yet with the spirit of innovation that can only come from an artist driven by her own vision, Frankenthaler sanded, scrubbed, beat and generally dinged up her woodblocks in a process she dubbed "guzzying" till they rendered the soft washy effects and surprising surfaces she desired.

The image below is just one of many ideas that range in crispness, hard vs. soft edges, washiness and density of marks - and is one in a series of prints that morph as Frankenthaler explores.

Helen Frankenthaler
Radius 1993
colour woodcut printed from six woodblocks on hand-coloured paper
 71.2 (h) x 71.4 (w) cm