The Print Project: The Marriage of Print and Color – Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler
Matisse is not the only one to take on color as a subject in print making. Of course there was Joseph Albers, but I am afraid that his color studies were just that: color studies. For me, at least, they never took on the transcendent quality of art.
But two people whose work does deal with color, where color is both the subject and object of the print, are Robert Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler, who, by the way, were married to one another from 1958 to 1971.
Motherwell’s work was influenced by Matisse’s in may ways, but perhaps most notably in Motherwell’s collages, which use torn paper as Matisse would use a cut-out. Motherwell’s colors are bold, clear, separate and distinct.
Frankenthaler, whose paintings and prints, seem to be only about color, has found ways to use printing modes to express her use of color. Silkscreens, mono-prints and woodcuts can be found in her print catalog.
It is interesting to me to see how very European Motherwell’s work feels, and how American Frankenthaler’s feels. It may be the expansiveness of the near landscape quality of Frankenthaler, that makes me think of the wide open spaces of the West. With Motherwell, his pieces carry the blue of a Gauloises cigarette package, and a squared-up composition that makes me reflect on the nature of a shut up room.
It is a wonder to think that even a country can be signified by the right color.
What both Motherwell and Frankenthaler both share with Matisse, are the clarity of their color and the singularity of their mission.
Books of Interest: