Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Contemporary Art

First Advisor

Aliza Shvarts

Second Advisor

Morgan Falconer


In a decade marked by the omnipresence of black-and-white television, McCarthyism, the end of the Korean War and the fledgling sounds of rock n’ roll, the 1950s invited American artists to utilize color in forms and abstractions to challenge the domesticated, safe boundaries established by European masters. The 1950s perpetuated dominate male, decision–making stereotyping while subordinating females as submissive, adorned homemakers. Sandwiched between the creative genius and evolution of the U.S abstract expressionist movement of the 1940s and the emerging pop artists of the 1960s, the 1950s signaled the development and the ascendency of Helen Frankenthaler. As a woman artist who adapted elements of cubism into her earlier works, Frankenthaler abandoned this style in favor of abstract figurative painting that curried worldwide acceptance. As the daughter of New York Supreme Court Justice, Alfred Frankenthaler, Helen was both unapologetic and self-effacing to critics who genderized her openings and shows and attempted to marginalize her contributions to the canon of abstractionism.