New exhibition at SLAM features work by renowned Jewish artist

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Savage Breeze, 1974, eight color woodcut © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), West Islip, NY

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Among the works on display in the new exhibition in SLAM’s Main Exhibition Galleries is a piece by noted Jewish artist Helen Frankenthaler

“Catching the Moment,” which runs June 26th to Sept. 11 at the St. Louis Art Museum, celebrates the acquisition in 2020 of 833 works of contemporary art assembled by Ted and Maryanne Ellison Simmons. Comprised primarily of prints—and including paintings, drawings, collages, photographs, and editioned sculptures—the collection features a diverse group of more than 40 artists predominately active in the United States.

Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler

Born in 1928 in New York City, Helen Frankenthaler absorbed her privileged background of a cultured and progressive Jewish family. Over the course of her six-decade career, Frankenthaler’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, from her first solo exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1951 to retrospectives at the Jewish Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim, and MOMA.

She has long been recognized as one of the great American artists of the 20th century.

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According to the Frankenthaler Foundation, through her invention of the soak-stain technique, she expanded the possibilities of abstract painting, while at times referencing figuration and landscape in unique ways. She produced a body of work whose impact on contemporary art has been profound and continues to grow.

Frankenthaler passed away at age 83 in 2011.

Helen Frankenthaler: Savage Breeze

“Savage Breeze” is the title of the piece that will be part of the “Catching the Moment” exhibit.

“Helen Frankenthaler’s 1974 woodcut Savage Breeze corrals swaths of bright color into graphic shapes bearing the marks of tools and the patterning of the wood that served as a matrix,” said Clare Kobasa, assistant curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs at SLAM.

Frankenthaler collaborated with printers to make both lithographs and woodcuts at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), a fine art print publisher founded in 1957 that spurred a transformative rise in printmaking as part of contemporary artistic practice.

“This print began as a piece of plywood that was cut into several shapes using a jigsaw before being inked and reassembled to produce the work seen here,” said Kobasa. “The colors bump up against each other, where the artificially introduced seams dance against the pattern of the wood grain visible through the ink.”

Late into what she described as the challenging process of making this woodcut, Frankenthaler landed on whitewashing the sheet and then layering the other colors on top.

“The white peeks out in the drip-like shape that lands just below the zone of intense green at the top of the woodcut,” said Kobasa.

Finding Savage Breeze

‘Catching the Moment’
When: June 23-Sept. 11
Where: Main Exhibition Galleries at St. Louis Art Museum
How much: Adults, $12; seniors and students, $10; children (6–12), $6; children (5 and under), free; members are free
More info: “Savage Breeze” is also among the works included in the show’s audio tour. You will find it labeled as Stop 17.