In the mid-1950s, when Abstract Expressionism continued to enjoy great success, many of the movement’s participants—some well-established, some newly so—began to push its premises in innovative directions, experimenting with a variety of materials and techniques. Helen Frankenthaler started staining her unprimed canvases with paints thinned with turpentine, allowing the color to soak into rather than rest on top of the surface. Jackson Pollock departed from his signature “drip” technique, which entailed flinging colored paints onto canvas, in favor of applying black enamel deliberately, with a turkey baster, across an unprimed surface.
For many Abstract Expressionist artists, content, in some form or another, returned as a guiding force. Lee Krasner drew from sources such as ancient Greek mythology. Joan Mitchell, who at this time divided her time between New York and Paris, looked to the French countryside as a starting point—attempting not to depict it, but, as she explained, “to paint what it leaves me with.”
Organized by Cara Manes, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, with Ana Torok and Danielle Johnson, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Drawings and Prints.