Hidden within this web of shapes and patterns lurks a narrative illustrating Heinrich von Kleist’s The Betrothal of Santo Domingo (1810). ‘Oh!’ cried Toni [Q#3] is one of fourteen works which Stella named for characters, places or dialogue in the German poet's Romantic novella which narrates the tragic story of Toni, a mixed-race girl enslaved on the island of Santo Domingo and her betrayal by a French/Swiss soldier attempting to repress the revolution of slaves fighting for freedom. It is common practice for Stella to work in series, particularly those with literary referents. In fact, upon beginning his Von Kleist series, Stella had just completed a series concerning Herman Melville’s Moby Dick which he executed between 1985-1987. Over the end of his life, Stella created several more series inspired by Von Kleist’s writing, producing works in a variety of media from metal reliefs and prints to sculptures and murals. Stella utilises the Von Kleist novellas “as screens on which to project his delight in the straightforward manner the romantics sought to incarnate their feelings in their works” (Robert Hobbs, ‘Frank Stella, Then and Now’, in: Exh. Cat., Singapore, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Frank Stella: Recent Work, 2002, p. 24).
Heralded as a pioneer of post-painterly abstraction and later named as the father of minimalist art, Stella’s artistic output has continued to produce increasingly complicated and dynamic work. ‘Oh!’ cried Toni [Q#3] provides a dynamic and compelling example of Stella’s mature artistic output which continues to effuse the authentic originality which pervades the artists’ oeuvre.
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