Formal Principle

I’ve been trying to work out exactly what kind of order Stella is aiming for, looking at the prints and late paintings. I think that to avoid an ordering principle is probably, for Stella, a kind of abstraction. The topic becomes compelling to me as I move into large collages. Right now I work with large clear areas, which may overlap, and which dominate smaller areas with lots of detail.

Robert Linsley, Collage #9 2016

Stella goes for overload, filling the piece with different kinds of detail to the extent that the main configuration is hard to detect. Maybe not so hard, but it takes sustained attention to find it.

Frank Stella, Libertinia 1995

This print is easier to read than most. The stretched out horizontal proportions demand a sequential or side by side arrangement, or suggest such a thing, and personally I like that. It looks like two rounded off shapes with a transitional area between, but you can also follow the orange diagonal at the right side over and into the middle and see it expand and veer upwards to the left and merge with the left hand group. The punched out red and white area is background. But there’s no real hierarchy of forms, and that’s likely what he considers “abstract.”

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