Over the Circle

Readers familiar with my blog are probably wondering why I haven’t started in again on Frank Stella. Just waiting. Have many thoughts, and following on the theme of recent posts about Kandinsky there is an opportunity to say something.

Stella has spent some time meditating on the circle. Circles are one of the central motifs in abstraction, and very common in the early days. Popova, Moholy-Nagy, Sonia Delaunay, Kandinsky, Lissitzky—circles were everywhere and back then had cosmic implications. I think Stella is not hostile to the natural way that circles bring to mind worlds, planets, universes and so on, but he doesn’t make a thing out of it. He has been thinking about how a circle can be used as a support to carry an image.

Frank Stella, The Funeral, from Moby Dick engravings 1991

Frank Stella, The Funeral, from Moby Dick engravings 1991

Within the Moby Dick series there are two sets of prints with identical imagery—the Domes and the Engravings. What looks like a white circle superimposed on the design of the Engravings is in the Domes an actual projection of the paper, which rises forward about six inches. You can see the shadow along the underside of the dome-shaped curved paper in this photo of the Dome corresponding to the Engraving illustrated above, as well as the highlight on top.

Frank Stella, "The Funeral" from Moby Dick Domes

Frank Stella, “The Funeral” from Moby Dick Domes

Just to clarify, here is a photo of Stella painting on the raised dome.


The works in these two series all follow the same pattern: 1) a circular base using a Chinese lattice configuration, not usually lined up with the dome itself 2) a composition of wave/whale shapes combined with other circular or curved things layered on top 3) a number of edging pieces that make up a frame within the frame, often a broken frame within the frame, distributed around the sides. That’s less complicated than it sounds. It’s complicated to describe, but worth it because I want to show how much there is to see in a Stella print, and how intelligently they are designed. This will take a couple of posts to develop.

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