Helen Frankenthaler, 1928 – 2011, in Painters Painting

I’d rather not write a silly obit for painter Helen Frankenthaler like the one in The New York Times that focuses on her love for dinner parties and dancing. Instead, I prefer writing about Emile de Antonio’s classic film Painters Painting (1972) which documents Frankenthaler within the post-Pollock art scene in New York. The film provides a serious and insightful take on Frankenthaler’s drippy, tattered abstractions. She’s in it, but you have to watch other painters chat about the crisis of painting in the United States before you get to some of her short scenes. Frankenthaler appears, dressed in a suit, at the 34 minute mark.

Some of Frankenthaler’s wisdom in Painters Painting about her most well-known painting, Mountains and Sea: “I didn’t want the sign of the brush or how the picture was made to appear. That area not painted on didn’t need paint because it had the paint next to it, so it operated just as forcefully.”

I recommend renting the film from Amazon, since none of the clips on YouTube or UbuWeb show Frankenthaler.


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