Frank Stella

Study for Princess of Wales Theater, Toronto, IV, 1992

pixel painting

342.9 × 487.7 cm


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Additional Information

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

photo credit: def image, Berlin

Artwork
Description

Study for Princess of Wales Theater, Toronto, IV is a pixel painting created during Frank Stella’s preparatory work for his Princess of Wales Theater murals. Construction of the Princess of Wales Theater began in 1991 and it was eventually opened to the public in 1993. The theatre is privately owned and was built by Ed and David Mirvish, the former an important Canadian businessman and theatrical impresario and the latter his son, an art collector and theatre producer. It has now become one of the most important theatres in Toronto. After public outcry the theatre was recently saved from planned demolition to accommodate a new multi-purpose complex designed by David Mirvish and Frank Gehry, and will be amalgamated into the final design.

To imbue the new theatre with a modern aesthetic the American artist Frank Stella was commissioned to create an enormous mural installation that would run throughout the building. This study for the final mural dates back to 1992 when construction was well under way and showcases the patterned aesthetic Stella gave to the theatre. The final work, believed to be one of the largest mural installations created in the modern era, spans over 10,000 square feet. The murals themselves are relief sculptures, which the artist describes as three-dimensional paintings and are made from aluminium, plastic and wood, with elements of fibreglass and carbon fibre added.

This study reveals the process of Stella’s creation as he developed his plans for the project. The artist used computer technology to generate the murals, as can be seen in the aqueous, flowing shapes on the dome of the theatre which were created by photo-plotting cigar smoke rings.

Study for Princess of Wales Theater, Toronto, IV shows the influence of Kandinsky in the spontaneity and dynamism of his composition, which recall Kandinsky’s renowned ‘improvisations’. The pixel painting bursts with colour and spiked, explosive forms jostle for space with abstract pink arcs. The 1990s was a period of increased productivity for Stella and he became involved with various public art projects, enabling the artist to use his characteristic large scale and fullness of colour to great effect.

This particular pixel painting was featured in the exhibition ‘Frank Stella- New Works’ in the old tram depot in Jena, central Germany during the winter of 2011 and formed part of a traveling exhibition that showed in Tuttlingen, Germany at the Galerie der Stadt Tuttlingen throughout the summer of 2011 before travelling to Jena in October.

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