Cutting the book

In his Kleist series Stella hit on a very good way to use literature. For his version of Kleist’s “Betrothal in Santo Domingo” he took six short speeches by five characters in the story and made a piece to embody each one (I illustrated two of them in posts on Vedova, and mentioned another in the previous post). Then he named four more pieces after four peripheral characters, who maybe are a kind of chorus, and four landscapes. The result is a shortened version of the story that acts almost like an interpretation, foregrounding certain aspects—but more than that: a haiku version remake, really no different in its departures from the original than a film, for example. The choices are all considered, and one has to know the story to appreciate the operation, but the work is more than an illustration and the text is not a caption. I’ve worked a lot with quotations, but this is a new way to me. I like it, and I think it deserves to be used again.

Frank Stella, ‘Her name was Marianne Congreve’ (Q#5) 1998

This piece is one of the six spoken quotes, though referring to another character, so it becomes a portrait, one made by the character Gustav rather than by the writer. Again, the smoke rings, which are painted white and rise from the bottom, are the breath of somebody, either the speaker or the person he names, or both.

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