Indefinite Feeling

Stella’s remarks, quoted in the previous post, continue: “What abstract painting can do better than anything else…[is evoke]…that sense of recognition that’s indefinite yet ecstatic at the same time.” I distrust this vagueness and non-specificity, though he is right that it is an important constituting feature of abstraction. Trust Stella to see the positive side. The nature of the uplift, or ecstasy, provided is also something to ponder. It could be roughly equivalent to the feeling possible in front of a great composition—the kind of thing that moves me to ecstasy—only generalized, “abstracted,” unreliant on particular forms. Or it could be a feeling of freedom from particulars, or from a world of too many oppressive particulars. But however cloudy the feeling—and a feeling is always better than

Frank Stella, The Tail 1988

a concept—it will depend on the particulars of the work. Stella uses pre-established forms, like templates, shifted around and differently colored in different works of a series. For example, the “wave” shapes in the above work are fixed in themselves but differently positioned from work to work. This might be a way to avoid the subjective vagueness I objected to in the previous post, but it also fosters the objective vagueness and ecstasy that Stella appreciates.

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