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‘Someplace else’? Helen Frankenthaler’s printerly paintings

This article examines the role of printmaking in Helen Frankenthaler’s practice. While Frankenthaler
is primarily known for her monumental abstract paintings and invention of her ‘soak-stain’ technique, printmaking formed a vital part of her oeuvre over five-decades. Countering ingrained material hierarchies, I consider how the printerly manifests within Frankenthaler’s studio practice. In a January 1970 lecture at Yale University, Frankenthaler asserted that that there was ‘a lot more room for development’ within painting and the ‘best of it is going someplace’. Taking up Frankenthaler’s proposition, I argue hat her painting developed in the ‘someplace else’ of printmaking. As such, this article moves beyond the narrow confines of a medium specific discourse. Printmaking offers an alternate vantage point – spatially and materially ‘someplace else’ – through which to reconceptualize where and how Frankenthaler extended painting as an aesthetic category, subject and site of artistic production. Focusing on Frankenthaler’s work of the 1960s and 1970s, this article offers an exploration of the parallel reinvention of painting, printmaking and, concomitantly, the studio and workshop during this period.
Relevant research areas: North America, 20th Century, Etching, Lithography