Inside the Artist’s Studio: Helen Frankenthaler

I love these stunning photographs of Helen Frankenthaler amongst her paintings in her New York City studio. Photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine ca. 1956:

Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art in her New York City studio. Photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine ca. 1956 2Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art in her New York City studio. Photographed by Gordon Parks for LIFE magazine ca. 1956for G - 28frankenthaler - UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1956: Painter Helen Frankenthaler sitting amidst her art. (Gordon Parks/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

And here she is at work, photographed by Ernst Haas in her studio in 1969

frankenthaler18

Helen Frankenthaler, New York, 1969 by Ernst Haas4

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Bathers on the Beach

On a Sunny Day…

Bathers, Pablo Picasso, 1920

Bathers, Pablo Picasso, 1920

On a Rainy Day…

Bologna, Luigi Ghirri, 1973

Bologna, Luigi Ghirri, 1973


Tanned

Two summery prints by Tom Wesselmann:

Cut-out Nude from 11 Pop Artists, Volume I Tom Wesselmann 1965

Cut-out Nude, Tom Wesselmann, 1965

Tom Wesselmann Shiny Nude from the Rubber Stamp Portfolio 1977

Shiny Nude, Tom Wesselmann, 1977


How to Be Both

How to Be Both by Ali Smith is a marvelous book –gorgeous language, innovative form, a moving story, and, best of all – it’s packed with art references! One of the main characters is Francesco del Cossa, an Italian Renaissance fresco painter of whom very little is known, but nevermind, Ali has created a story for him (her), and woven it together with the story of George, a teenage girl in modern day. There are discussions about art, love, gender and sexuality, death, and more, as well as a great cover (a photograph of Sylvie Vartan and Françoise Hardy, an image which is referenced in the book) and inner cover images from Francesco del Cossa’s greatest masterpiece – an elaborate allegorical fresco in the Palazzo Schifanoia (meaning palace of escaping from boredom) in Ferrara, which also plays an important role in the novel.

Sylvie Vartan and Françoise Hardy photo by Jean Marie Perier

Sylvie Vartan and Françoise Hardy, photograph by Jean-Marie Périer

Smith’s prose is dazzling and clever. In the extract below Francesco talks about the gift of being a painter, and in the passage below that, he describes what he sees when he finds himself in modern day (the “votives” he speaks of are in fact our smart-phones and tablets):

“It is a feeling thing, to be a painter of things: cause every thing, even an imagined or gone thing or creature or person has essence: paint a rose or a coin or a duck or a brick and you’ll feel it as sure as if a coin had a mouth and told you what it was like to be a coin, as if a rose told you first-hand what petals are, their softness and wetness held in a pellicle of colour thinner and more feeling than an eyelid, as if a duck told you about the combined wet and underdry of its feathers, a brick about the rough kiss of its skin.” (p. 42)

“I am wondering where it is, grave of my father, wondering too where my own grave, when the boy sits up, faces the woman’s house, holds his holy votive tablet up in both hands as if to heaven, up at the level of his head like a priest raising the bread, cause this place is full of people who have eyes and choose to see nothing, who all talk into their hands as they peripatate and all carry these votives, some the size of a hand, some the size of a face or a whole head, dedicated to saints perhaps or holy folk, and they look or talk to or pray to these tablets or icons all the while by holding them next to their heads or stroking them with fingers and staring only at them, signifying they must be heavy in their despairs to be so consistently looking away from their world and so devoted to their icons.” (p. 43)

The book is split in two parts (both titled part one), one which is centred on Francesco and the other on George. One of Smith’s experiments with structure was to vary the order of these two parts randomly from book to book. My book started with Francesco’s story, and I must admit that, knowing nothing about the book beforehand, I found it hard to make head or tail of it to begin with. So after some research I decided to skip forward and start over with George’s story. This made all the difference, by the time I got to Francesco’s section I had no problem understanding it. So if you’re having trouble getting through, don’t give up – just try switching it around!

Here are some images of Francesco del Cossa’s frescoes in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara, Italy, executed c. 1469–70:

Francesco_del_Cossa_013 Francesco_del_Cossa_003  marzo-close-up-001 francesco_del_cossa_triumph-of-minerva-det
And now excuse me while I plan my trip to Ferrara.


Ejercicios de Ruptura

Ejercicios de Ruptura, at Victor Lope Arte Contemporáneo, brings together a selection of delicate and mystical drawings by the Colombian artist Johan Barrios in his first solo exhibition in Spain. The soft pencil and charcoal images, drawn over a watercolour background in gray and sepia tones, depict people suspended in moments of contemplation, silence, and quiet actions –because he shows that standing still is also an action in itself. His work pushes the boundaries of drawing, playing with the effect that external elements (a sheet, a light, water) can have on an figure, and how this, in turn, can be captured on paper.

Barrios’ characters are absorbed in curious performances or rituals. Whether they are standing with a bed sheet over their head, holding a paper in front of their face, or calmly meditating in a ray of light, all of their actions seem conscious and deliberate, loaded with meaning and intent. Inmersión de una idea I and II, among the largest pieces in the exhibition, show a woman performing a bizarre ritual with a bowl holding a dark liquid. In one, she submerges her face in it, in the other she soaks her hands. In Lo Efímero I and II a blinding glow emanates from a plate in a girl’s hands and from a girl’s feet.

Also worth noting are the series of small drawings of shadows and lights projected on to people, creating images on top of images, and turning the human form into an object. The figures seem to be in an active state of stillness, holding their breath, absorbed in the effort of being motionless, and in doing so attaching a great significance to what is happening.

But it isn’t only the subject that gives his work its magical quality, it is also the technical skill with which it is accomplished. The detail and realism in the drawings is exquisite, as is the way he captures shadow and light, creating a glow which emanates from the paper. Ejercicios de Ruptura is a must-see, and Johan Barrios is surely one to keep an eye on. His images are beautiful, puzzling, and steeped in mystery; they will not be easily forgotten.

Originally written for P&B Magazine

Inmersión de una idea I, Johan Barrios, 2015

Inmersión de una idea I, Johan Barrios, 2015

Lo-efímero-I-grafito-y-acuarela-sobre-papel-20x30-cm-20151-574x768 Johan Barrios

Lo Efímero I, Johan Barrios, 2015

s-n-2015 JOhan Barrios

Untitled, Johan Barrios, 2015


Underwater Vision

underwater-vision-1910 Odilon Redon

Underwater Vision. Odilon Redon. 1910.


A Day of No Gods

Susie and Friends. Alex Prager. 2008

Susie and Friends. Alex Prager. 2008

Reclining Tahitian Women. Paul Gauguin. 1894

Reclining Tahitian Women. Paul Gauguin. 1894

A Day of No Gods. Paul Gauguin. 1894

The Day of the Gods. Paul Gauguin. 1894