Gravity, Upturned

A painting characterized by washes of color against a largely yellow ground. A blue form runs along the entire right edge. From center to top left, washes of orange, brown, green, and blue are stacked on top of one another, forming a vertical, oblong mass.

Helen Frankenthaler, Island Weather II, 1963. Acrylic on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Howard Sloan, B.A. 1945, and Mrs. Sloan. © Helen Frankenthaler/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Gravity grounds us in the world. But what happens when art invites us to imagine otherwise? Since the early 20th century, numerous artists have harnessed and subverted gravitational force—dropping, dripping, and pouring to produce their work. Though deceptively simple, this act—of releasing materials in the air—is in fact a dynamic creative gesture. The artworks it yields have the potential to imaginatively upend our bearings, reconfiguring our sense of place in both embodied and metaphoric ways. Join Miriam Ashkin Stanton, the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman–Joan Whitney Payson Fellow, Academic Affairs and Outreach, for a discussion of these ever-shifting coordinates in works by artists such as Helen Frankenthaler and Jackson Pollock.