Frankenthaler at Face Value

Helen Frankenthaler, Before the Caves, 1958, oil on unsized, unprimed canvas, 26
Helen Frankenthaler, Before the Caves, 1958 (University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Photo: Sibila Savage. © 2014 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./ ARS, New York)

(Long read) Through the lens of the recent exhibition Helen Frankenthaler: Painted on 21st Street - 1950 -1959 at Gagosian Gallery, Shepherd Steiner considers the complicated impact the inflated art market has on the presentation, reception, and criticism of works of art - ultimately arguing for a return to the work itself, for an attempt to consider it at "face value."

Following an extensive analysis of the market forces at work and the artistic and critical values at stake, Steiner concludes: "So occupy 21st Street. But not only for the economics of it all... to stage an encounter with painting where the question of face value can finally be posed is the ethical flip side. Collaborating or working collectively with Frankenthaler — making her our contemporary, or at the very least looking over her shoulder as she performs the palimpsest-like composite of acts that make her paintings — is the imperative here. Only this ethical orientation can interrupt the circulation of global finance in and as criticism. In so doing we respond poetically to what Jacques Derrida has called a ‘teleopoetic’ demand — we remake her painting at a distance. And we put ourselves in Frankenthaler’s shoes..."