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  • Frank Stella’s Polish Villages 

     

    Jarmolince III from 1973 belongs to Frank Stella’s celebrated series of sculptural paintings called the Polish Villages. The inspiration for this series came from a 1959 book titled Wooden Synagogues by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka, experts in Jewish architecture and veterans of the Warsaw uprising. Stella’s friend, architect Richard Meier, gifted him this book, which explored the distinctive shapes and elaborate forms which constituted the wooden synagogues, built all around the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from as early as the 16th Century. Throughout World War II, every single one of these historical structures were destroyed. 


    Beginning in 1970, Stella embarked upon a series of large-scale paintings made from wood, brightly colored felt and canvas, responding to the architectural marvels he read about in the Piechotkas’ book. Each work is titled after the names of the Polish villages; Jarmolince III derives its title from modern-day Yarmolyntsi in Western Ukraine, a community which witnessed devastating loss during the Holocaust. 

     

    Wooden Synagogues by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka, Photo: Courtesy of the authors' family.
    Wooden Synagogues by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka, Photo: Courtesy of the authors' family.

    Stella said, “these synagogues were destroyed during the war, and there were two things interesting about them. One was that there was a kind of geometry in the construction, the wooden construction, which I would call interlocking-ness: interlocking parts that are interesting as a kind of geometry. The other thing that was compelling was that the trace of the destruction of these synagogues was from Berlin to Warsaw to Moscow. The development of abstraction in the twentieth century traces that same path, from Moscow to Warsaw to Berlin and back.”i 

     

    From 2D to 3D 


    The Polish Villages not only respond to art historical trends in abstraction, but also to Stella’s own journey with abstraction. These shaped collage reliefs are some of the earliest examples of the artist’s departure from two to three dimensions. Using his quintessential flat blocks of color first employed in the artist’s concentric squares and polygon paintings of the 1960s, Stella takes these bands of color and intersects them in relief form. Of Jarmolince III, Roberta Smith says “these tactile stripes converge along a central spine that, seen from a certain angle, suggests the looming corner of a building.”ii Later in his career, Stella would continue to explore the possibilities of wall-bound sculpture with more industrial materials.

    "These tactile stripes [of Jarmolince III] converge along a central spine that, seen from a certain angle, suggests the looming corner of a building." —Roberta Smith In contrast to the more recent works, Stella’s Polish Villages like Jarmolince III are both elegant and humble. The materials used recall those of pre-modern architects, as if the artist is paying homage to the architects of these 16th century synagogues. As Tom McGlynn aptly described, “A work like Jarmolince: III (1973), with its frieze-like shallow shifts and polygonal irregularities is imbued with a pre-modern awareness of materiality; artisanal labor reconnected with its fundamental forces.”iii

     

    Jarmolince III, 1973 and Piaski II, 1973, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, installation view, October 30, 2015-February 7, 2016
    Jarmolince III, 1973 and Piaski II, 1973, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, installation view, October 30, 2015-February 7, 2016.

    Jarmolince III has been extensively exhibited, signifying its importance in the Polish Village series and, more broadly, the artist’s oeuvre. Debuting first at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1974, the work would later be included in exhibitions at major institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and most recently in the artist’s celebrated traveling retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2015. 

     

    i Frank Stella, quoted in “Understanding Stella: The Polish Village series,” Phaidon, January 29, 2018, online 
    ii Roberta Smith, "Beyond Paintbrush Boundaries: Imagining Structures in 3-D," The New York Times, May 4, 2007, p. E34
    iii Tom McGlynn, “The Clamor of Reason, Frank Stella: A Retrospective,” The Brooklyn Rail, December 2015-January 2016, online

    • Provenance

      The Artist
      Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired circa 2007)
      Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
      Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2014)
      Christie’s, New York, May 18, 2017, lot 526
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Twelve American Painters, September–October 1974, pp. 66, 68 (illustrated)
      New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frank Stella: Painting into Architecture, May–July 2007, no. 7, pp. 12, 34 (illustrated)
      New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum; San Francisco, de Young Museum; Frank Stella: A Retrospective, October 2015–February 2017, p. 230

    • Literature

      Lisa Turvey, "Frank Stella: Painting into Architecture," Artforum, October 2007, p. 364 (illustrated)
      Roberta Smith, "Beyond Paintbrush Boundaries: Imagining Structures in 3-D," The New York Times, May 4, 2007, p. E34
      Stephen Maine, "Thinking Big," The New York Sun, May 3, 2007
      James Lawrence, "Frank Stella, New York," The Burlington Magazine, September 2007, vol. CXLIX, no. 1254, p. 652
      Stella McCartney, "Frank Stella," Interview Magazine, November 10, 2014, online (illustrated)
      Thomas Crow, "Frank Stella," Artforum, February 2016, p. 225 (illustrated)

    • Artist Biography

      Frank Stella

      American • 1936 - N/A

      Recognized as one of the most important postwar American artists, Frank Stella pioneered Minimalism with his monochrome “Black Paintings” of the late 1950s that marked a decisive departure from Abstract Expressionism. Concerned with the formal over representative elements of painting, Stella has developed a rich oeuvre reflecting his explorations on painting as an object through his investigations on color, shape, and composition. By the 1960s, Stella turned to bright colors and worked with shaped canvases that radically deemed form itself as content. After briefly experimenting with relief and collage, he ultimately turned to freestanding large-scale sculptures and architectural projects. Still working today in New York City, Stella remains the youngest artist to have had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970 and the first living artist to have had another the following decade in 1987.

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Property from an Esteemed Collection

132

Jarmolince III

signed, titled and dated "JARMOLINCE III F. Stella '73" on the stretcher
acrylic, canvas, felt and cardboard on shaped panel
97 1/8 x 81 x 8 in. (246.7 x 205.7 x 20.3 cm)
Executed in 1973.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $828,600

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session, New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 18 November 2021