Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Enjoying Prints without White-lines

Reflecting Pool at The Clark Art Institute

I recently visited The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA to see an exhibit of Helen Frankenthaler's woodcut prints and paintings. 

You may know that Frankenthaler's woodcuts are a huge inspiration for me. If not, you can read a previous post about my first encounter with her work here.

It was a marvelous exhibit. I hadn’t seen any of her prints in person before and it was well worth the five hour drive round trip. 

Some of the prints were unbelievably luminous. The brilliance was partially achieved using printmaking techniques that she herself didn’t even know how to do. She worked with professional printers who turned her ideas into print editions. 

That is the traditional way of doing things, actually. All the famous Japanese woodcuts familiar to you were created by a team. Two names you know, Hiroshige and Hokusai, were painters who created images for a printmaking house, who employed specialized carvers, paper handlers and printers, to translate into prints.

In Frankenthaler's case, she pushed these printers to their limits with her ideas and forced them to invent completely new techniques to fulfill her visions. Many of these pieces took years of proofing, experimentation and failure before completion. According to books and museum tags, tempers were known to flare.

Standing before her imposing images, I couldn't always puzzle out how they were done even after reading a detailed description. 

Even though they are woodcuts. Even though they are jigsaws.

Instead of frustration, I feel energized by this. 

I've got some big ideas of my own and seeing hers in full lively color helped turn my hope into faith that they will be in my hands or on the wall sometime in the future. Even if I don't quite know how it will happen.

P.S. There was also an exhibit of a few of Frankenthaler's paintings in another building of The Clark. To get there, you "had to" take this wooded path.

Even thought the Frankenthaler exhibit is no longer on display, The Clark is a marvelous place and I recommend a visit!

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