Frank Stella, Juam 1997 (1st. state)

Frank Stella, Juam 1997 (1st. state)

One of the prints from the Imaginary Places series, “Juam,” offers a perspective on Stella’s overcrowded compositions. A first state—much lighter, less labored—was also released, described in a pamphlet dedicated to the piece. As usual the final state is over the top, with the addition of three dented beach balls, smoke rings, what look like sideways paint drips and much more. In fact it is better. The first state seems like an unremarkable and in a way typical abstraction. In principle I’m glad that the green honeycomb is tilted off the grid, not parallel to the edge, but in the event that seems unnecessary. The black, brown, purple and blue shapes are printed from poured metal—a great technique, but the shapes themselves are undistinguished. The thin squiggly line is another technique I’d like to see more of, but it’s better eliminated in the second state. The woodcut background, printed in red and orange, is also a good idea, but benefited from being reduced in the final state. The interest of the definitive arrangement lies in the way that volumes appear to rotate around a gap in the middle, where the colored spiral spins. Or maybe they sit still, in roughly four nodes, and so help to give the spiral some momentum.

Frank Stella, Juam 1997

The final state has arrived somewhere, a place called Juam, which must be the place of art. It’s not the crowdedness that matters, but the resolution, and an overfull composition is not necessarily better resolved. Subtraction works as well, but better still is not to thrash around in the realm of decision, but just to let the work grow.

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