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August 17 2019
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Helen Frankenthaler in her New York City studio, circa 1957. “Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown” is on view through October 27.

“How does a place impact the work of an abstract artist?” the curator Elizabeth A. T. Smith asked herself as she put together “Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown,” an exhibition of more than 30 paintings and works on paper that Frankenthaler produced during a decade of Provincetown summers from the late 1950s through the early 1970s. Organized with Lise Motherwell, Frankenthaler’s stepdaughter, and curator Alicia G. Longwell, the exhibition opened this past weekend at the Parrish Art Museum, in Water Mill, New York.

“Helen was influenced by landscapes; she really was not a landscape painter,” said Motherwell during a walk-through of the show, spread across three galleries in the Herzog & de Meuron–designed mega-barn off Route 27. “What she tried to do is capture the atmosphere of where she was and render the feeling of being in a place.” The show itself, with its serene, colorful canvases and sun-soaked, scrapbook-worthy ephemera, captures not only the feeling of a place but a sense of nostalgia for an idealized coastal American summer.

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