Helen Frankenthaler. Jacob's Ladder. 1957

Helen Frankenthaler Jacob's Ladder 1957

  • Not on view

Although it shares a name with the biblical tale of Jacob's dreamed ascent toward heaven, and also with an ancient Egyptian toy, Frankenthaler insisted this work had no illustrational intention: "The picture developed (bit by bit while I was working on it) into shapes symbolic of an exuberant figure and ladder, therefore Jacob's Ladder." Working in New York in the 1950s, Frankenthaler painted large-scale unprimed canvases on the floor to explore new ways of handling distinctively thinned paint. The artist said she borrowed from Jackson Pollock her "concern with line, fluid line, calligraphy, and ... experiments with line not as line but as shape."

Gallery label from 2010.

Although it shares a name with the biblical tale of Jacob's dreamed ascent toward heaven, this work, Frankenthaler insisted, had no illustrational intention: "The picture developed (bit by bit while I was working on it) into shapes symbolic of an exuberant figure and ladder, therefore Jacob's Ladder." Inspired by Jackson Pollock in her "experiments with line not as line but as shape," Frankenthaler took his iconic drip technique a step further, thinning her pigments so that they would soak into the unprimed canvas she had laid on the floor. Her technique was instrumental to the development of 1960s Color Field painting.

Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 - August 13, 2017.
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
9' 5 3/8" x 69 7/8" (287.9 x 177.5 cm)
Credit
Gift of Hyman N. Glickstein
Object number
82.1960
Copyright
© 2019 Helen Frankenthaler / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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