Work of the Week! WOW! FRANK STELLA – Polar Coordinates VII Hand-Painted Trial Proof



Frank Stella
Polar Coordinates VII (hand-painted trial proof)
1980
Mixed media – lithograph and screenprint in colors with hand-coloring in tempera, acrylic metallic paint, gouache and crayon
38 x 38 1/2 in.
Unique
Pencil signed & dated



About the work:

Frank Stella is widely known for his concern with geometry, precision and rationality that characterize Minimalism. By the late 1970’s, his work had evolved to become more complex with visible brushstrokes and experimentation with combinations of shapes, colors and printing techniques. Despite his progression towards more dynamic work, the grid base of Stella’s earlier creations remained an integral element of his style.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Polar Coordinate for Ronnie Peterson – VII, a hand-painted, mixed media unique work, of which only 5 unique pieces were ever made.

The Polar Coordinates series is dedicated to his friend Ronnie Peterson who was a Swedish auto racer. During the time Stella was working on the series, Ronnie Peterson died at the Grand prix at Monza in September 1978. The theme of racing is one that would appear again in Stella’s Circuits series and Race Track series.

In his reinterpretation of the polar coordinates, Stella activates the graph paper to become lively and vibrant, a spinning energy evocative of the momentum of racing.

The title of the series stems from mathematical polar coordinates graph paper, which consists of lines emanating from a central point. Each print from the Polar Coordinates series was created from multiple layers of screenprinting and lithography. The lithographic plates determined the grids, outlines of the shapes and rapid line drawing in the form of superimposed netting. Photoscreens created from washes and crayon drawings on Myalr were used for the tonal backgrounds and flatter colors, including the metallic inks and GitterFlex.

This hand-painted mixed media version, available from Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art, differs from the regular edition in various ways. Firstly, the metallic silver is hand-applied by the artist without certain of the superimposed lithographic rapid line drawing elements. Secondly, the two bisected quatrefoils which create the image, are hand-painted in different colors and with differing elements of rapid line drawing. In some instances, Stella removed some of the rapid line drawing and in other instances added them to this image. These mixed-media hand-painted versions were Stella’s color trial proofs and studies that eventually led to the regular edition of Polar Coordinate VII.

An interesting addition to the series and further tribute to Ronnie Peterson is a BMW which was hand painted by Stella in 1979 as a custom work for another race car driver and close friend, Peter Gregg.

Work of the Week! WOW! Ellsworth Kelly – Red, Yellow, Blue



Ellsworth Kelly
Red Yellow Blue
1999-2000
Lithograph
31 x 30 1/2 in.
Edition of 40
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Ellsworth Kelly’s works emphasize the basics of color, form, and shape. He is considered one of the great American artists of the 20th century for his pioneering works in hard-edge minimalism and colorful abstraction that explored the essence of their subjects.

Kelly spent time in Paris in the late 40s where he became influenced by Picasso and Matisse. Upon his return to New York, he carved out his own niche, paring down architecture, images and other visuals, turning them into abstractions. Using basic colors, he created statements that were “less descriptive than evocative.” Compared to other artists of his generation, Kelly’s works are far simpler.

His works take time to look at because what they portray is reduced to the basics, but they are all depictions of something we have already seen, and Kelly invites us to see what he sees.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Red Yellow Blue.

Red Yellow Blue is based on a painting created in 1963 which is part of the Marguerite and Amié Maeght Foundation collection. The Galerie Maeght was an avid supporter of Kelly’s work, giving him his first solo exhibition in 1958. The artist spent the summer of 1963 with the Maeght family at their residence in Saint-Paul de Vence and Red Yellow Blue is inspired from his walks in the flower and vegetable gardens of the estate. The colors are reduced to the three primary colors, flatly applied without any nuance or value. Once the subject of the work is identified, it is easy to see that the work is a bird’s eye view of a well-manicured French garden.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Frank Stella – Jasper’s Dilemma



Frank Stella
Jasper’s Dilemma, from Jasper’s Dilemma
1973
Offset Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Frank Stella defiantly departed from Abstract Expressionism through a complete restructuring of the idea of painting. He revolutionized the field and inspired changes still felt today.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Stella’s Jasper’s Dilemma, an homage to fellow artist Jasper Johns who he admired greatly.

Jasper’s Dilemma is formed of two “mitered” mazes as Stella called them. Mitered joints are joints that are beveled, usually at a 45 degree angle to form a corner, such as standard picture frame edges. Both mazes seem identical in structure, divided into 4 triangles whose points don’t quite meet at the center, however, the colored maze spirals outward in a counter-clockwise path from the center and the black, while the black and white maze follows a clockwise route.

Stella eliminated subjectivity in his work through using arbitrary mathematical measurements, forcing the viewer to think about the relationship between color and form. Johns on the other hand, created compositions of recognizable items, closing the gap between the object and its representation, transforming an object into art.

Johns would often create a work in color, then reexamine it in shades of grey. This “dilemma” is posed in Stella’s tributary work (which holds both the representation in color and in grey), between the “seduction of the spectrum against the rigors of the grey scale.” The title of this work and its color scheme make explicit reference to Johns’s statement that the more he worked in color, the more he saw gray.

For Johns, the use of grey was a means to think about color through its absence. Johns initially used grey tones as a statement of skepticism or anticipation, but it evolved into a profound examination of the meaning of color itself. Grey was the most appropriate hue with which to present “conceptual” art since it is less stimulating, allowing for more space for ideas.

In removing color, the artists refocus the viewer’s attention to consider the means of representation, over what is represented and, to consider how does something come to have meaning, rather than what does it mean.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Damien Hirst – Ala-Met



Damein Hirst
Ala-Met
2011
Woodcut
31 1/2 x 25 in.
Edition of 55
Pencil signed and numbered


About the work:

“To create that structure, to do those colours, and do nothing. I suddenly got what I wanted. It was just a way of pinning down the joy of colour.”

Damien Hirst started his ‘Pharmaceutical’ spot painting series in 1986, when he painted two almost identical arrangements of colored spots on the wall of his warehouse. Today, the spot works are amongst his most widely recognized pieces.

The spot series follows a formula. Every work is created without any physical evidence of human intervention, appearing to be constructed mechanically. Each color is unique, never repeated and complimentary to the surrounding ones. The formula of the spot paintings also dictates that the spaces between the spots are always equal to the diameter of the spots themselves. Hirst explains that, “mathematically, with the spot paintings, I probably discovered the most fundamentally important thing in any kind of art. Which is the harmony of where colour can exist on its own, interacting with other colours in a perfect format.”

The titles for the works also follow a specification, and are taken from the chemical company Sigma-Aldrich’s catalogue ‘Biochemicals for Research and Diagnostic Reagents.’

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Ala-Met.

The name for Ala-Met is derived from two amino acids, Alanine and Methionine, organic compounds that participate in a number of processes such as neurotransmitter transport and biosynthesis.

Although created in the deceptively simple polk-dot motif, the work is hypnotic and disorienting, inducing the sort of hazy effects one might get from powerful mind and body altering pharmaceutical substances. Some colors seem to jump out from the white background, while others recede, highlighting Hirst’s expert control of color.

Ala-Met is also faithful to the mechanical and detached appearance of the spot paintings, despite that it is a work created by woodcut. The woodcut is a relief printing technique, in which a block of wood is carved along the woodgrain. This technique typically leaves woodgrain marks on the printed product, whereas Ala-Met achieves a uniform and seamless finish in each spot.

Throughout his body of work, Hirst has demonstrated a fascination with mortality. His work calls into question our awareness and convictions about the boundaries that separate desire and fear, life and death, reason and faith, love and hate. Hirst uses the tools and iconography of science and religion, creating works of art whose beauty and intensity offer the viewer insight into art that transcends our familiar understanding of those domains.

The spot paintings, with their titles tied to the pharmaceutical industry play on the fact that we have become a drug induced society, yet at the same time these paintings speak volumes about the art itself, as a work of art. Hirst’s work is post expressionism. “I wanted to find a way to use colour in paintings that wasn’t expressionism.” However Hirst does use color and the placement of these colors to express certain ideas or emotions. Each spot painting will have a different meaning or feeling to each viewer coming from different cultures, with a whole different set of life experiences.

Damien Hirst has often been a polarizing figure in the art world. His often provokes outrage as well as mystified shrugs. In addition to keeping up with the Warholian tradition of repetitive, consistent images, the spot artworks bring up cultural and contemporary questions. Upon seeing these spot paintings, the lay person will ask “Is that art?” or “That painting cost that much for spots?” This was also said about Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can paintings. Time has proven the importance of the Campbell’s Soup Can painting to the art world, as will Hirst’s Spot paintings.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Frank Stella – Benjamin Moore Series





Frank Stella
Hampton Roads, from Benjamin Moore
1972
Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed and numbered
Frank Stella
Palmito Ranch, from Benjamin Moore
1972
Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
​Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Frank Stella is one of the most highly regarded post-war American artists still working today. He is a rule-breaker, interested in furthering the History of Art by constantly and deliberately taking us down new paths. 

Upon moving to New York after his studies at Princeton, Stella was first inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, but also by the ‘flat’ works of Barnett Newman. It was however, the paintings of Jasper Johns, exhibited at Leo Castelli’s famed gallery in 1958, that lead Stella to start using his now-trademark stripes as a compositional tool. The controlled minimalist works are among his most recognizable. Stella didn’t change the course of Art History simply through his study and use of a radically different style, he also approached diverse materials in a revolutionary way. 

Frank Stella’s first experience in painting was re-coating houses and boats, and he would continue to paint houses after his move to NY to make ends meet. Over the course of his 60-plus-year career, Stella would regularly revisit unmixed house and car paint in addition to using house-painter brushes. Stella’s process was documented in Hollis Frampton’s photo essay “The Secret World of Frank Stella” which showed the artist’s approach to canvas as being the same as he would a house – filling a space with increasingly proximate concentric lines. In his striped works, Frank Stella never used masking tape. He would never even measure out the lines, rather the works are free-hand.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is the Benjamin Moore Series. This series is one of Stella’s most iconic. Andy Warhol recognized the genius of Stella and purchased the complete set of originals himself.

All the titles of Stella’s works are significant. The Benjamin Moore Series makes reference to the type and brand of paint that was used in the creation of the works. The use of store-bought house paints is significant in that it roots his art in the post-war commodity culture. In naming the series after a company, he also explored the rise of advertising and branding. The titles of each individual piece are also important to note – they are all named after historical battles fought during the Civil War. 

The two works featured at Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art are Palmito Ranch and Hampton Roads. Both battles were of great significance. The Battle of Hampton Roads, often called either the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack or the Battle of Ironclads, fought on March 9, 1862, was the most important naval battle of the Civil War from the perspective of naval development. It was History’s first duel between ironclad warships. The Battle of Palmito Ranch is regarded as the final battle of the war, fought May 12 and 13, 1865, on the banks of the Rio Grande in Texas. Despite that Robert Lee had surrendered a month prior to Ulysses Grant, the attack was ordered on the Confederate Army for unknown reasons. Anecdotes suggest that Union Colonel Theodore Barrett wanted to see combat before the end of the war. The names of Stella’s works are significant, loading abstract images with meaning. The complete series is a historical narrative composed of abstract works. 

The works in the series are among Stella’s most reductive compositions. It is the formal rather than the thematic matter that Stella engages in. The set plays with maze-like patterns, simple diagonals,  and understated and stacked compositions, where the painted line creates an even, horizontal rhythm. Stella shows us the environment of the battles of the Civil War with paint straight from a can – intense and flat. The saturated palette, measured proportions, and glowing presence are at once immediately vibrant and classically timeless.

As Adam D. Weinberg, director of the Whitney has said “Frank is a radical innovator who has, from the beginning, absorbed the lessons of art history and then remade the world on his own artistic terms. He is a singular American master.”

WOW! – Work of the Week – Leon Polk Smith, Volair, from Constellation Series





Leon Polk Smith

Volair, from Constellation Series

1975

Screenprint

41 1/8 x 29 1/2 in.

Edition of 80

Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Considered one of the founders of the hard-edge style of abstract art, Leon Polk Smith rose to prominence in the 1960s with his distinctive shaped canvas series — the “Constellations”.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW!) is the 1975 screenprint Volair, from this important Constellations Series

It was in 1936, while attending Columbia University’s famed Teachers College, that Smith was introduced to the geometric works of contemporary European artists. The works of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian caught his eye during his studies. He was deeply inspired by Mondrian’s aesthetics, if not fully convinced by the philosophy behind them. A pragmatic American in his approach, Smith took what he wanted from the aesthetic experience and discarded the theorizing.

However, it would be another few years before the influence of De Stijl, the movement inspired by Mondrian in which pure abstraction is achieved through form and color, clearly manifested itself in Smith’s work. His perceptions of artistic space led to a quest to make color and form one. This quest consisted of a series of intuitive decisions rather than the theoretical, ruminative creative process that preoccupied Mondrian and other members of the De Stijl group.

Smith established his key motif while perusing an athletic catalogue in the late 1940s. Examining the pencil drawings of baseballs and tennis balls in it, Smith began to imagine that from these simple shapes he could create a new kind of space.

As he described:

“It was flat and the same time it was curved. It was like a sphere. The planes seemed to move in every direction, as space does. And so I thought, maybe that is because that’s on the tondo. I’ve got to find out if that is true or not. I’ve got to do some on a rectangle to see if the form and the space still moved in every direction. And it did. So it was exciting to do a painting on a rectangle that seemed to have a curved surface. It was the first time, you see, that I had made an important step myself, or contribution in art.”

While his Minimalist peers during that time were shifting away from Modernism and rejecting relationality, Smith was wholeheartedly advancing the formal and rational elements of the Modernist tradition. By introducing a single curving line, Smith created two pictorial spaces, allowing for the interchangeability of positive and negative space. He developed his signature hard-edge style over the following decade, beginning with creating a series of paintings in which he explores the circle by developing a curvilinear shape within it using two colors, and later experimenting with more colors in oval, rectangular and square shapes.

By 1967, Smith’s circular explorations introduced additional panels and defined his shaped, multi-part “Constellation” series of paintings and drawings, among his most exuberant and inventive compositions.

WOW! – Work of the Week – HINMAN, Triangles





Charles Hinman
Lavender Triangle
2012
Screenprint
38 x 38 in.
Edition of 15
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

Charles Hinman
Orange Triangle
2012
Screenprint
38 x 38 in.
Edition of 15
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

“My concept of my work is dynamic, never static. I think of my paintings as occupying a 6-dimensional space – the three dimensions of space and one each of time, light and color.”  Charles Hinman

Charles Hinman played a significant role in redefining the physical shape of paintings. His desire to break away from the traditional square or rectangular frame of painting lead him to the shaped canvas. In the 60’s several abstract minimalist artists were experimenting with new canvas shapes, but none drove the concept further than Hinman. His canvases were a form of hybrid between painting, sculpture and wall relief.

Until the early 1970s, Hinman examined the possibilities offered by this new medium: strongly protruding canvases, geometric and sensual profiles, color contrasts, color reflections on the adjacent wall, shadows, monochrome canvases.

Since working on primarily flat surfaces was not Charles Hinman’s primary medium, his exploration of print-making started only when he met master-printer Gary Lichtenstein. these two worked on numerous projects together. in 2012, they collaborated on a set of screenprints entitled Triangles, which is this week’s Work Of the Week – WOW.

Prints are 2 dimensional works, however, through his mastery of color, angles and shapes, Hinman is able to give Lavender Triangle and Orange Triangle the strong illusion of a 3rd dimension. On the flat surface of the paper, he applied bright colors, which cause an area to move forward, in contrast with darker colors that recede, which tricks the eye into believing the silkscreen has actual depth. The choice of adjacent colors causes a sensation of motion of the surfaces. The defining particularity of Hinman’s Triangle silkscreens are his focus on the illusion of space and suggested volume. As with his paintings, Hinman is able to apply 6 dimensional features to his prints as well.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Frank Stella “Sinjerli Variation IV”

Sinjerli Variation IV

Frank Stella
Sinjerli Variation IV
1977
Lithograph and screenprint
32 x 42 1/2
Edition of 100

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

Frank Stella (b. 1936), an American minimalist and geometric abstract expressionist is known for producing works emphasizing the picture as object rather than as representation. He has said: “a picture is a flat surface with paint on it – nothing more.” Stella’s works do not have a clear reference to the world, they are compositions of the basics of the elements of art and geometry. Color, line, and form are what inspire him. 

The Sinjerli Variation Series of six lithographs, was published in 1977 by Petersburg Press in New York, seven years after the artist’s first retrospective at MoMA. Aged 41, at the time, he was the youngest artist to receive such an honor. 

The Sinjerli Series is derived from Stella’s original painting Sinjerli I of the Protractor Series, dated from 1967 to 1970. The inspiration of the Protractor Series, in addition to the names of the works, came from the circular shape of cities from the ancient civilizations of Asia Minor. Sinjerli was a city of the Ancient Anatolian people of the Hittite Empire, which reached its height in the 14th century BC. It is located at the foothills of the Anti-Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. The fortified citadel of Sinjerli was outlined by an almost perfect double walled circle, which connected with the geometric inspiration of Stella’s body of work.

Each Sinjerli variation is composed of two semi-circles, or protractors and positioned to the left of the sheet, slightly lower than midlevel. Each lithograph is composed of elaborate patterns of intersecting circular forms, arranged in a manner that removes any indication of depth. While at first, the form is seemingly symmetrical, the interweaving of the arcs also gives the illusion of unending line-work. 

For the series, Stella made use of bright and vibrant colors. The hues are not tinted as a flat application, but rather have a painterly texture and this result was accomplished by a three-step process. The first step required the deposition of a toned ground, the result of a broadly drawn plate, also known as “full crayon.” Secondly, a looser, textured drawing was applied, the “smear crayon.” Finally, the finishing touch was a high gloss glaze, named “loose crayon.”

Today, Frank Stella continues to live and work in Manhattan and commutes to his studio in Rock Tavern, NY on the weekdays. His most recent retrospective took place at the Whitney in NYC from October 30, 2015 to February 7, 2016.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Frank Stella “Del Mar”

Del Mar 2 2

FRANK STELLA
Del Mar, from Race Track Series
1972
Screenprint
20 1/4 x 80 in.
Edition of 75

Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About This Work:

Frank Stella first emerged on the scene in the late 1950s, when his Minimalist Black Paintings heralded a new era in postwar art. In the years since then, he has worked consistently in series, pioneering new approaches to form, color, narrative, and abstraction with innovative paintings, prints, sculptures and architectural installations.

Stella moved to New York in 1958, after his graduation at Princeton University. He still lives and works in New York, and he is one of the most well-regarded postwar American painters still working today.

In 1970, at the age of 34, Frank Stella became the youngest artist ever to receive a full-scale retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He received a second retrospective at the same institution in 1987 — an unprecedented occurrence in the museum’s history.

The story of Stella’s artistic development is the story of ever-increasing visual complexity. When he burst upon the art world at the end of 1959, it was with a series of large rectangular canvases painted entirely in a dull black enamel. The surface of each painting consisted of a simple geometric pattern — uniform chevrons, for example, or interlocking rectangles — that was formed by thin, slightly wavering lines of unpainted canvas. There was no color, no contrast of forms or materials, no illusionistic depth or drawing. As Stella put it in an often-quoted interview from 1964, in those paintings “what you see is what you see”.

Stella creates abstract artworks that bear no pictorial illusions or psychological or metaphysical references.

He began to produce works which emphasized the picture-as-object, rather than the picture as a representation of something, be it something in the physical world, or something in the artist’s emotional world.

His controlled colors, flat surfaces and rigid forms are once again the main features of his Race Track Series.  This work, as well as his others from this period of Stella’s career, can be seen to have inaugurated the Minimalist movement in art. Stella’s attempt to pare down painting, to purge it of extraneous gesture, warmth, and emotion made his work appear almost as a species of anti-painting, an inversion of everything that painting stood for and expressed.

Del Mar is part of a set of three large-scale, oblong prints, from the Race Track Series. These screen prints are named after two horse-racing tracks in Los Angeles, titled “Del Mar” and “Los Alamitos”, and one in Mexico, titled “Agua Caliente”.

Printed on heavy rag paper, the centered, concentric tracks receive their visual immediacy and variety from lively color harmonies, saturated deposits of inks and contrasts of matte, glossy and standard ink surfaces.

With a career extended across more than half a century, Stella both holds an important place in the history of American art and maintains contemporary relevance as his work continues to influence younger generations of artists.

The art market has seen an increase in demand and in auction prices in the print work of Frank Stella over the last few years. Much of this is due to the nature and importance of his work conceptually as a response to the art movement before him.

His retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York earlier this year, and the fact that he is 80 years old, have also brought more attention to his print work as well.
The art world will never see another Frank Stella again.