Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)
Property from the Estate of Remsen Kinne III
Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)

Cinnamon Burn

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)
Cinnamon Burn
acrylic on canvas
120 x 82 in. (304.8 x 208.2 cm.)
Painted in 1968.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Private collection, Dallas
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
Wayne Andersen, Boston
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1981
B. Rose, Frankenthaler, New York, 1974, no. 178 (illustrated).
S. Glubok, The Art of America Since World War II, New York, 1976 (illustrated in color on the inside front cover).
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Prints of Helen Frankenthaler, September-November 1981.
Hanover, Dartmouth College, Hood Museum of Art, Art of the 20th Century, June-August 1987.
Sale room notice
S. Glubok, The Art of American Since World War II, New York, 1976 (illustrated in color on the inside front cover).

Brought to you by

Jennifer Yum
Jennifer Yum

Lot Essay

Standing just over ten feet high, Helen Frankenthaler's monumental masterpiece, Cinnamon Burn is an extraordinary example of the artist's work of the 1960s. Streaks of teal, mauve, cornflower and cerulean blue, flank the central cinnamon band that cascades over the golden sunflower yellow dominating the lower portion of the canvas. Cinnamon Burn is certainly one of the most ambitious of the artist's work of this period. The color is immediate and vibrant, only leaving a few wisps of unpainted canvas visible between the dynamic forms and at the upper and lower edge. The washes of color form controlled tide lines that occasionally reveal the underlying pigment in the more translucent passages. The intermingling of complimentary colors further heightens the dramatic effect of the soaring canvas.

The soak stain technique inherited from early pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, most notably, Jackson Pollock, was derived by pouring ribbons of oil paint laced with turpentine directly onto unprimed canvases laid down on the ground. The result was diaphanous and free-flowing forms enlivened by the vivacity of her elegant color selections. As with other masters of color field painting, including Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis, the controlled relationship between the varying color passages and raw canvas produced a necessary tension in response the all-over, paint laden surfaces of Pollock and Mark Rothko. Clement Greenberg coined the term "Post-Painterly Abstraction" to describe the new exploration in abstract painting of staining the canvas, rather than applying paint by hand, to produce a formal solidarity and compositional levity. The result was a significant transition from the individualistic gesture of the abstract expressionists to a new focus on the relative anonymity of color and form.

In 1964, Clement Greenberg organized a groundbreaking exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that subsequently traveled to the Walker Art Center and Toronto Museum of Art. Greenberg defiantly outlined his observations in his essay for the catalogue, explaining that "As far as style is concerned, the reaction presented here is largely against the mannered drawing and the mannered design of Painterly Abstraction, but above all against the last. By contrast with the interweaving of light and dark gradations in the typical Abstract Expressionist picture, all the artists in this show move towards a physical openness of design, or towards linear clarity, or towards both. They continue, in this respect, a tendency that began well inside Painterly Abstraction itself, in the work of artists like Still, Newman, Rothko, Motherwell, Gottlieb, Mathieu, the 1950-54 Kline, and even Pollock. A good part of the reaction against Abstract Expressionism is, as I've already suggested, a continuation of it. There is no question, in any case, of repudiating its best achievements. Almost a quarter of the painters represented in this show continue in one way or another to be painterly in their handling or execution Helen Frankenthaler's soakings and blottings of paintopen rather than close the picture, and would do so even without the openness of her layout" (C. Greenberg, "Post-Painterly Abstraction," in The Collected Essays and Criticism, Volume 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969, Chicago, 1993, pp. 194-195).

As the only female artist included in Post-Painterly Abstraction, Frankenthaler's participation in this momentous exhibition signaled her position as a recognized leader amongst the second generation abstract expressionists. The openness of her forms certainly distinguished her works from the hard-edged and more geometric leanings of her male counterparts. Painted just three years after this historic exhibition, Cinnamon Burn exemplifies this signature period in Frankenthaler's ever-evolving and influential artistic career.

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