The Easel

Pure color: A curator’s new view of Helen Frankenthaler’s unprimed legacy

The 1960’s critic Clement Greenberg claimed modern art had finished contemplating nature. Henceforth, pure abstraction would be about colour. Frankenthaler, a friend of Greenberg’s, took this path and produced images with thin paint washes – sort of Jackson Pollock without evidence of the painter’s hand. But her career past 1970 was artistically uneventful. Pure abstraction, it turned out, was running out of puff.