- Frank Stella
- Tomlinson Court Park (first version, small)
- oil on canvas mounted on masonite
- 12 x 17 3/4 in. 30.5 x 45.1 cm.
- Executed in 1959.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC# 3)
Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Scull, New York
Jonathan Scull, New York
Blum Helman Gallery, New York
James Carr, New York
Christie, Manson & Woods, New York, November 12, 1980, Lot 27
Mr. and Mrs. Aron B. Katz, Boulder
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1982
Lawrence Rubin, Frank Stella Paintings 1958 – 1965, A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1986, cat. no. 46, p. 77, illustrated
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Tomlinson Court Park (first version, small) dates from Stella's series of Black paintings (1958 -1959) which established him as a pioneering artist. The startling simplicity struck a challenging note at that time and drew the support of Leo Castelli and MOMA curator Dorothy Miller who included him in her legendary Sixteen Americans exhibition in 1959. This influential series consists of 24 large-scale paintings, 23 of which are extant and 6 smaller paintings. Stella painted second large versions of three titles: Getty Tomb, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, and Tomlinson Court Park. The second large version of Tomlinson Court Park still holds the auction record for Stella, set at Sotheby's in 1989, reiterating the importance of this series, much of which are in museum collections. The present work is a wonderful example of the artist's Minimalist and symmetrical tendencies that were in reaction to Abstract Expressionism. Eliminating gesture, Stella's composition covers the canvas with alternating bands of black paint. The artist is playing with the viewer's optical perceptions – are we to focus on the alternating black bands? What is positive and what is negative space?
The Black paintings' titles refer to dark subjects ranging from Nazi references, nightclubs that Stella visited, and minority neighborhoods with tenement housing, such as Tomlinson Court Park in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. The present work is painted from the outside in and is one of the most "closed" compositions in the series. The concentric rectangles parallel the shape of the canvas, and the perception of flatness is achieved by the systematic facture of the surface. In his lectures at the Pratt Institute in 1960, Stella described flatness as achieved through symmetry and the use of the monochrome, a solution which forces illusionistic space out of the painting at constant intervals by using a regular pattern – an aesthetic theory so clearly visible in Tomlinson Court Park (first version, small).