Dorothy Fratt: Paint The Town Red

Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post, January 6, 2023

A D.C. native who became a color-field painter in the 1950s, Dorothy Fratt was technically a contemporary of Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. But she moved to Arizona with her husband in 1958, leaving behind the city’s nascent abstract-art scene. Pazo Fine Art’s “Paint the Town Red” brings her work back to town, five years after her death.

The earliest pictures are oils from the 1940s and ’50s in a cubist style, some made when Fratt was a teenager. (Not in the show but in the gallery’s storage room is an early painting that depicts a coffee break at The Washington Post, where her father was a photojournalist.) Most of these works, which include prints and a collage, date from between 1976 and 2001.

Like the Washington colorists, Fratt switched from oil to acrylic. But where they let watery pigment and soft forms seep into canvas, Fratt preferred bold colors and hard edges, often painted on paper. Perhaps influenced by Arizona’s deserts, the artist repeatedly employed red fields, punctuated by lozenges and squiggles in contrasting hues. Fratt wasn’t exactly a landscape painter, but she conjured a sense of wide open space.

 

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