Repeating Patterns

As in all improvisation, patterns tend to recur. In fact, the more open and free the improv, the more subject it is to repetition. This is something I’ve learned from music, and this is why preparation helps a lot. Art doesn’t come out of nothing. Or say the new never comes out of nothing. Stella’s prints, as you might expect, have recurring patterns. This is a nice, complex piece.

Frank Stella, Fanattia 1995

White network/lattice type forms mark the two upper corners, like two horns. But they really help define the top half of the design as a rectangle, with the green and red curved shapes taking the bottom corners. Then a more rounded agglomeration spills out of that rectangle into the bottom half of the picture. Or you could start at the yellow in the bottom right corner and rectangulate your way through the other bright colors, turning sharp corners and ending up at the red upper right, and say that lower case “n” shape holds the bottom and top together. Color, design, value all working well here to make a complex multi-layered whole. The optional or multi-plex aspect of how the forms join together is what might make it “abstract.” But it’s not hard to see this arrangement repeat to some degree in the next piece.

Frank Stella, Juam 1997

In this case three corners are marked by the same battered beach ball, tipped at a different angle in each case. The three imply four, and make a symmetrical, balanced configuration, but of course Stella messes up the symmetry. The bright red shapes look like they are spinning out of the middle, and the rings on a dark background are spilling into the bottom left corner. The frame within the frame calls for the top corners to be acknowledged, and then he finds two different ways to get to the bottom. Or that’s one way to see it, which doesn’t exhaust the possibilities.

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