Upon learning the news about Helen Frankenthaler’s death yesterday at the age of 83, I thought I would remind readers that her woodcut triptych, Madame Butterfly, served as the cover artwork for the Fall/Winter 2001-2002 issue (Volume III, Number 1) of Valparaiso Poetry Review. Since this issue of VPR was released only a few weeks after the 9/11 events, I believed a light and promising image was ideal for the cover as a contrast to the daily scenes seen on television and in newspapers at that time.
As always, Gregg Hertzlieb, the Director of the Brauer Museum of Art, kindly provided a commentary complementing the artwork, the opening of which I include below:
Helen Frankenthaler (born 1928) is a world-renowned abstract artist whose work heralded in painting’s next significant phase after abstract expressionism in the 1940’s. Rather than apply paint in a thick, gestural manner, Frankenthaler chose to stain her canvases with broad expanses of veil-like color that give her finished works a transcendent, mystical glow. Her work is seldom about a distinct figure-ground relationship; instead, the expanses of color immerse the viewer in a space where each passage is of equal weight in a shimmering, decentered field. Frankenthaler’s early efforts would eventually inspire more austere approaches in the 1960’s and 1970’s, where painters would suppress painterly gesture even further to focus solely on color relationships.
Frankenthaler’s Madame Butterfly, a woodcut triptych printed in 2000, is a large work (41 3/4 x 79 1/2 inches) of remarkable complexity. . . .
I encourage visitors to remember Helen Frankenthaler by viewing her works of art, and I urge everyone to read the rest of Gregg Hertzlieb’s commentary.