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Lee Krasner Embrace 1974 Screenprint

Lee Krasner, Embrace, 1974, Screenprint, 190/200; Permanent Collection of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas.

Guest Writer: Todd Giles, PhD, Associate Professor of English at MSU Texas

For decades Lee Krasner was better known as the wife of Jackson Pollock than as an important post-war Abstract Expressionist in her own right. Fortunately, that stigma has been changing over time with the publication of her Catalogue Raisonné by Ellen Landau in 1995, Gail Levin’s 2011 Lee Krasner: A Biography, and retrospective exhibitions in major cities like Houston and New York. Like many of the painters of her generation, Krasner did not produce many works on paper during her lifetime—in her case, only 29.

Krasner was one of fifteen “distinguished American artists,” along with Alice Neel, Robert Goodnough, Alex Katz and others, commissioned in 1974 by the Kennedy Galleries in New York to produce a run of 210 signed prints to commemorate the 1976 U.S. Olympics. When asked to write a statement about her contribution, Krasner said, “The opportunity for nations to come together for a single event, such as the Olympics, provides a spirit in which all the nations embrace” (Landau 274).

Embrace, a four-color screenprint, calls to mind the Modernist influence on Krasner’s earlier work from the 1930s, which can be seen in her angular 1939 still-life simply titled Composition, a painting perhaps inspired by the work of Piet Mondrian, who immigrated to New York one year later. More to the point, Embrace is nearly identical to another of Krasner’s 1939 oil paintings, Olympic, in which she reduced her usual amorphous, interconnected and diversely-colored shapes down to piercing green arrowhead-like angles that shatter through a crisp blue circle. The sharp angularity, which was a departure from the paintings Krasner is most well-known for, is also in marked contrast to the more organic and fluid prints of her female contemporaries Helen Frankenthaler and Louise Nevelson, both of whom are also represented in the permanent collection of the WFMA.

Embrace from the Permanent Collection of the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at MSU Texas