PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DOLLY FITERMAN
Private Collection, Texas
Texas Art Gallery, Dallas
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1990
In 1959, with his important series of Black Paintings, Frank Stella took art to its most pure extreme by paring down its visual language to the barest of essentials. Working with modular forms and mathematical progressions, Stella expanded upon art's possibilities in ways that would help to define an era and extend its influence from art to design and from the regional to the transcendent. Consequently, just one year after graduating from Princeton, the young 23 year old trailblazer was invited to exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art's 16 Americans show from which his masterpiece The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, 1959, was selected for the museum's permanent collection.
In the early 1960s, Stella expanded upon his earlier philosophies and produced a series of works known as the Concentric Square paintings. These paintings from 1962-1963 were primarily about extremes; extremes in contrasts or extremes in monochromatic variations. Ascending or descending tonalities based on various formulas led to striking juxtapositions. Yet despite their visually complex compositions, the canvases disavowed any higher meaning beyond their immediate visceral impact. Indeed, as the artist famously noted, "My Painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there...If the painting were lean enough, accurate enough or right enough, you would just be able to look at it. All I want anyone to get out of my paintings, and all I ever get out of them, is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion...What you see is what you see," (Frank Stella quoted in William Rubin, Frank Stella, New York, 1970, pp. 41-42).
The present work is a quinessential example of Stella's mature Concentric Square paintings. Here, luscious dark violet hues first advance toward the center of the left square in lighter and lighter hues, then, in its inverse on the right, light purples become deeper and more saturated toward a dark plum center. Simultaneously, the spectrum of color descends in the left square from red to purple and again, in the right square, its inverse, from purple to red. The juxtaposed colors create a visual symphony of inspiring range and depth creating a composition of surprising power that at once is precisely controlled. As the artist has noted about the concentric format, "It's just a powerful pictorial image. It's so good that you can use it, abuse it and even work against it to the point of ignoring it. It has a strength that's almost indestructible at least for me. It's one of those givens, and it's very hard for me not to paint it," (Frank Stella quoted in William Rubin, Frank Stella 1970-1987, New York, 1987, p. 43).
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