Exhibition in celebration of Helen Frankenthaler print acquisition

Posted on Friday, September 18, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contact: Barbara Briggie-Smith
Tel: 515.271.0343

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Des Moines Art Center presents exhibition in celebration of Helen Frankenthaler print acquisition

DES MOINES, IOWA (September 2015) — On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, the Des Moines Art Center will open East and Beyond: Helen Frankenthaler and Her Contemporaries. The exhibition runs through January 17, 2016 in the John Brady Print Gallery.

In celebration of the acquisition of Helen Frankenthaler's breakthrough color woodblock print, East and Beyond, 1973, the Art Center presents an exhibition contextualizing Frankenthaler's print. The exhibition includes four works on paper by Frankenthaler, as well as 23 works on paper and ceramics by American and Japanese artists who were active during the 1950s to 1980s. Transcending and merging their cultures' printmaking traditions, these artists too moved "beyond East" and "beyond West." Japanese pictorial traditions, including expressive sumi-e brush painting and Zen calligraphy, the use of un-sized supports, and ukiyo-e printing, inspired artists such as Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Motherwell, and influenced their development as Abstract Expressionists. American ceramists Gertrud and Otto Natzler, Glenn Nelson, and William Wyman looked to Zen-inspired ceramics. Concurrently, Japanese Modernists Fumiaki Fukita, Hideo Hagiwara, Shoichi Ida, Masuo Ikeda, Hoshi Joichi, Haku Maki, Tetsuya Noda, Koshiro Onchi, Takumi Shinagawa, Hiroyuki Tajima, and Ansei Uchima moved towards Western approaches to abstraction, Pop Art, and Photorealism, as manifested in their woodblock prints, etchings, and lithographs.

The exhibition includes David Hockney’s lithograph inspired by a ukiyo-e print. It also includes one work not by a contemporary of Frankenthaler but which is pertinent to the exhibition—a color woodblock print by 19th-century Japanese printmaker Ikeda Eisen. Nor can this survey omit the California printmaker Carol Summers, whose abstract color relief prints, such as La Terra Trema, anticipated by a decade the adaption of Japanese block printing techniques by East Coast artists and printers.
All but two of the works in the exhibition are from the Art Center's permanent collections. Thanks to the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation generous loan of Frankenthaler’s color woodblock prints Savage Breeze and Essence Mulberry, the Art Center has the extraordinary opportunity to present two major works by the artist that fulfilled the prophecy of East and Beyond.

Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings, organized the exhibition.

Related Programs

Gallery Talk
Amy N. Worthen
Thursday, October 8 / 6:30 pm
John Brady Print Gallery

Amy N. Worthen will lead an informal discussion on the exhibition.

Lecture: “The Artist and the Jigsaw”
Suzanne Boorsch, Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints and Drawings, Yale University Art Gallery
Thursday, January 14, 2016 / 6:30 pm
Levitt Auditorium

In 1972 Helen Frankenthaler was asked by Tatyana Grosman, the founder of Universal Limited Art Editions—one of the small group of pioneering publishers who created the so-called American Print Renaissance—if she would like to try her hand at making a woodcut, a medium in which neither she nor ULAE had worked to date. Intrigued, she began to research the methods and tools previous artists had used for woodcuts, eventually choosing a jigsaw as her principal tool. The result was East and Beyond, which, as it became widely known, not only received high praise, but well beyond that, was acclaimed as revolutionary. This lecture will examine the methods and, insofar as is possible, the thought processes of Frankenthaler and the other Western artists who created works with an Eastern flavor, also focusing on the prints of the dozen Japanese artists included in the exhibition.

About the Des Moines Art Center

Recognized by international art critics as a world-class museum in the heart of the Midwest, the Des Moines Art Center has amassed an important collection with a major emphasis on contemporary art. The collection’s overriding principle is a representation of artists from the 19th century to the present, each through a seminal work. This accounts for an impressive collection that ranges from Edward Hopper’s Automat to Jasper Johns’ Tennyson, Henri Matisse’s Woman in White, Georgia O’Keeffe’s From the Lake No. 1, Francis Bacon’s Study after Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bill Viola’s Ascension, and Cecily Brown’s Half-Bind.

The Art Center’s physical complex marries with the collection for a totally integrated experience. The collection is housed in three major buildings, each designed by a world-renowned architect – Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier. With the exception of special events, admission to the museum is free.

In September 2009, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park opened in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park. Philanthropists John and Mary Pappajohn have provided funding for and donated 28 sculptures by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists to the Des Moines Art Center. The collection of sculptures by such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Deborah Butterfield, Willem de Kooning, Olafur Eliasson, Keith Haring, Ellsworth Kelly, Jaume Plensa, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, and Mark di Suvero, is the most significant donation of artwork to the Art Center in a single gift in the museum’s history. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park was created in collaboration with the Pappajohns, the City of Des Moines, the Des Moines Art Center, and numerous corporate and private donors.

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