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Against the grain
the woodcuts of Helen Frankenthaler

26 November 2005 – 5 February 2006
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Go to Frankenthaler subsite

Helen Frankenthaler, has, more than any other modern artist, transformed the look of the woodcut. This exhibition investigates the creative innovation and technical experimentation that lies behind the production of some of the 2oth century’s greatest achievements in woodcut. It features a selection of the artist’s woodcuts, working proofs and the carved woodblocks used to create the prints.

Frankenthaler was a key figure in the New York art scene during the 1950s. She was one of only a handful of women artists who successfully contributed to an artistic territory dominated by such giants as Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning. Although painting was Frankenthaler’s primary artistic passion an obsession to push her creative limits led her to turn her attention to print media.

The woodcut, a notoriously difficult and rigid medium, could not be further from the artistic realm of a gestural, spontaneous painter. However, Frankenthaler saw it as a challenge and over the past thirty years has coerced the ‘static’ medium into yielding printed works of a fluid, painterly style.

'In a style that is uniquely hers, Helen Frankenthaler has given the woodcut, one of the oldest forms of printmaking, renewed vitality. Against the grain provides the visitor with the opportunity to experience the vibrant, colour saturated surfaces of one of the most enduring of the Abstract Expressionist;' said Jaklyn Babington, Assistant Curator International Prints, Drawings and Illustrated Books.

Kenneth Tyler, publisher and master printer at the Tyler Graphics print workshops, has played a major role in the success of Frankenthaler’s woodcuts. Since 1973 there has also been a close association between the National Gallery of Australia and Kenneth Tyler. In 2002 the Gallery acquired the Kenneth Tyler Print Archive Collection, consisting of editioned prints, screens and multiples, as well as rare and unique proofs, artist’s drawings and printing elements.

Kenneth Tyler will open the exhibition and launch the Frankenthaler website, which includes a virtual tour of Against the grain, commentary by Tyler, rare film footage, photographic stills of Frankenthaler at work at Tyler Graphics, and documentation of the works on display.

On view
Against the grain: the woodcuts of Helen Frankenthaler
26 November 2005 – 5 February 2006

Special guest
Ken Tyler, Master Printer, Tyler Graphic print workshop, USA
available for interview by appointment

nga.gov.au/Frankenthaler

For further information please contact
Alix Fiveash Marketing and Communications +61 2 6240 6431