Looking once again at Stella’s Moby Dick works, I’m struck by how intensely animate they are. Animals, figures, whatever you want to see—and it’s evident again how the obvious is so hard to notice, and always the most important thing, at least with an artist as inventive as Stella. In this case living figures in a dance with framing abstractions, breaking out of the limits. The effect is to animate the geometric elements, give them a


Frank Stella, Fedallah (IRS-4 1.875X) 1988

personality of their own. But maybe this is one of the oldest streams in the history of abstraction—a swarming sea of living things, within and without a background. The degrees of legibility of the shapes and their relative independence are infinite.


Jean Arp, Pre-Dada drawings 1915-16

It can be found in Kandinsky, and in de Kooning as well.

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