Frank Stella

K.359, 2014

Mixed Media

61 × 101.6 × 69.9 cm


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Additional Information

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

photo credit: Florian Kleinefenn

Artwork
Description

Unlike anything the artist has created before, this work by the renowned American artist Frank Stella is from the artist’s latest series, Scarlatti Kirkpatrick, an ongoing body of work initiated in 2006. The series’ title refers to the Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), known for his close to 550 harpsichord sonatas, and the Yale musicologist and harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-84), who popularised Scarlatti’s work and produced the definitive catalogue of the sonatas in 1953. Only a small fraction of Scarlatti’s work was published in his lifetime; the K. 359 of Stella’s title refers to the cataloguing titles assigned to the sonatas by Kirkpatrick. As through this mediation of Scarlatti through Kirkpatrick, so is the relationship in Stella’s works to the music is itself distanced, one of visual rhythm and abstraction rather than literal association. The sonatas provide an internal structure that catalyses the formal construction of the work. K. 359 is composed of a polychrome stainless steel spiral and fibreglass sculptural elements, a dynamic structure, twisting and looping in space. So too, the intricate shadows the works cast resonate like fading notes. The Scarlatti Kirkpatrick series thus progresses Stella’s career long exploration of the technical limits and spatial properties of the canvas into three-dimensional form: “If you follow the edge of a given work visually,” says Stella, “and follow it through quickly, you find the sense of rhythm and movement that you get in music.”

Whilst the mode of abstraction that catapulted Stella to art stardom in the late 1950s would perhaps now be viewed warily, here Stella defends abstraction as an inherently musical quality – blurring the lines between the two art forms to reinvigorate both abstract sculpture and Baroque harpsichord compositions for the twenty-first century. Each work begins as a model that the artist makes by hand, which is then scanned into a computer and rendered in three-dimensions using CAD software. This use of digital technology allows Stella to modify and refine his designs before constructing a small-scale model; the final pieces – painted resin forms and spiralling lines of coiled steel – are fabricated in parts by machines and put together by Stella. The resulting sci-fi-esque sculptures demonstrate Stella’s characteristic formal resolution – but rather than the grounded weight of earlier works, the Scarlatti Kirkpatrick series exudes a light precision – the dazzling, lively rhythm of a Scarlatti sonata.

About
the artist

Frank Stella (b.1936) was born in Malden, Masachusetts. He lives in New York, where he moved in 1958, after graduating from Princeton University, where he majored in history. His artistic career is studded with academic accomplishments, with honorary doctorates from Princeton, Dartmouth and Brandeis University Massachusetts. In 2009, President Barack Obama granted him with the National Medal of Arts in Washington, D.C.

A major proponent in the fields of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction, the career of Frank Stella spans more than five decades. His famous 1964 maxim, “what you see is what you see” had led to a concise direction during artistic production; the picture must focus only on the basic elements of colour, composition and shape and not on what it represents.

Originally, Stella was influenced by abstract expressionists purely by being in reaction to them and their ideals (he lists Kline and Pollock as being particularly incendiary). Gradually, he became more attracted to the flatter surfaces of Barnett Newman and Jasper Johns, two artists who served as obvious catalysts for Stella’s Black Paintings (1958-60). Before he had turned twenty-five, his art was already recognised and several of his paintings were featured in the 1960 MoMA exhibition Sixteen Americans.  His simple, uncomplicated ethos towards art is echoed through his techniques; a painting is a flat surface covered in paint, not a depiction of something else.

Constantly evolving to new territories, he persevered in his exploration, with a 1982 residency at the American Academy in Rome seeing him immersed by the dramatic legacy of Rubens, Velázquez and Caravaggio. It was the Baroque master of Italian art who appears to have had most influence on the latter half of Stella’s oeuvre, even becoming the main focus of Stella’s eponymous 1986 literary work, Caravaggio. The idealistic crux of the ambitious 135-work Moby Dick series is that Stella is a montage artist. Yet as he began producing pieces geared towards greater unity and wholeness through the depiction of multiple planes, the realisation came that the old masters were all montage artists as well. By drawing on the techniques of European painting, Stella demonstrates his ever-present desire to create a pictorial space which is mobile and three dimensional. This can only be an illusion; it’s not the actual space the viewer inhabits. Despite remaining non-figurative, the impressive environment which is generated through composition and colour is replete with narrative. It is this carefully and skilfully constructed abstract narrative of Stella’s which has engaged, and continues to engage, generations of audiences.

He has produced more than 55 series to date, each with approximately 50 pieces, totalling around 3,000 artworks. Michael Auping took this into account when considering the artist's retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2015. “Frank is always looking forward,” he says. “He loves the ‘Black Paintings,’ but he’s over it. I keep saying, ‘Frank, it’s like the Rolling Stones having a concert and not playing 'Satisfaction'. You can’t do that.’ ”


A major proponent in the fields of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction, the career of Frank Stella spans more than five decades. His famous 1964 maxim, “what you see is what you see” had led to a concise direction during artistic production; the picture must focus only on the basic elements of colour, composition and shape and not on what it represents.

He has produced more than 55 series to date, each with approximately 50 pieces, totalling around 3,000 artworks. Michael Auping took this into account when considering the artist’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2015. “Frank is always looking forward,” he says. “He loves the ‘Black Paintings,’ but he’s over it. I keep saying, ‘Frank, it’s like the Rolling Stones having a concert and not playing ‘Satisfaction’. You can’t do that.’ ”


Frank Stella
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition