Public Program

In Dialogue: Helen Frankenthaler’s Abstraction

Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director of the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, joins Natalie Dupêcher, Assistant Curator of Modern Art, for a conversation about Helen Frankenthaler’s pivotal role in post-war American art. They will consider how the artist pioneered a highly original form of abstraction by looking at a selection of her works, including the monumental painting Hybrid Vigor, 1973, which is currently on view in the Menil Collection. On loan from a private collection, it is the first time this work has been presented at a museum since it was acquired in the 1970s.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928 – 2011) had a distinguished and prolific career that spanned six decades. A highly influential figure in the Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting movements, she is known for her invention of the “soak-stain” technique, which expanded the possibilities of abstract painting. Her work has been the subject of numerous solo museum exhibitions, as well as three major monographs: Frankenthaler, by Barbara Rose (1972); Frankenthaler, by John Elderfield (1989); and Frankenthaler: A Catalogue Raisonné, Prints 1961–1994, by Suzanne Boorsch and Pegram Harrison (1996).

In Dialogue: Helen Frankenthaler’s Abstraction

About the speakers:

Elizabeth Smith joined the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation in 2013 as its first Executive Director. Previously she was Executive Director, Curatorial Affairs at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto; Chief Curator and Deputy Director of Programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Smith has curated, published, and lectured widely on contemporary art and architecture. She is currently adjunct professor at Bennington College, Vermont.

Natalie Dupêcher is the Assistant Curator of Modern Art at the Menil Collection, where she most recently curated Photography and the Surreal Imagination, which opened on February 5, 2020. Forthcoming projects include a new display of the permanent collection Surrealism galleries and a presentation of Mark Rothko’s work to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel in early 2021. She is completing her doctoral studies at Princeton University and specializes in Surrealism and the historical avant-garde.

About the series:

In Dialogue is the Menil Collection’s series of live, online conversations. Menil curators are joined by notable scholars, artists, and art professionals for engaging discussions about the museum’s collection, current exhibitions, and ideas shaping contemporary discourses about art. All programs are free and open to everyone.