Frank Stella - Moss New York Monday, October 15, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    The Helman Collection, New York
    Private Collection, Los Angeles
    Edelman Arts, New York
    Private Collection, New York

  • Exhibited

    ‘Masterworks - Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella’, Joseph Helman Gallery, New York, October - November, 1996

  • Literature

    Robert Wallace, Frank Stella’s Moby-Dick: Words and Shapes, Ann Arbor, 2000, illustrated pp. 131, 144

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1970, at the age of 33, Frank Stella was the youngest person to have a retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Only 17 years later he was granted the rare privilege of a second MoMA retrospective, his 1970-1987 body of work still largely interpreted in the vocabulary of abstract formalism, though expanded to include shapes such as French curves, flexicurves, cones, and pillars.

    Having read Moby-Dick in his youth, and viewing the 1956 film with Gregory Peck playing Captain Ahab, it was as an adult that Stella rediscovered the story, during visits to the Coney Island aquarium with his sons. ‘The first thing we saw every time we went into the aquarium were the Beluga whales in the tank just as you came right in the door. They were just sort of looming over you, as it were. I just kept seeing them for about two years, and then one day the wave forms and the whales started to come together as an idea.’

    When Frank Stella began the ‘Moby-Dick’ series he was predominantly an abstract painter and printmaker, but by 1997, when he had completed 266 unique artworks dedicated to the 138 chapters of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, he was a sculptor, creating large scale works wherein ‘abstract and figurative coexist with material and symbolic.’

    By linking his abstract forms with the whale and wave figures and specific chapters of Melville’s novel, Stella expanded interpretations for his work. The present lot, titled ‘Brit (Q6)’ is dedicated to chapter 58 of Melville’s novel, ‘Brit’, named for 'the minute, yellow substance, upon which the Right Whale largely feeds.'

    The use of honeycomb aluminum might call to mind the whales’ baleen and the clouds of poured metal through the honeycomb might be the brit. Robert Wallace suggests that the ends of the sheet metal in ‘Brit (Q6)’ should be considered deliberately cut with Ms or Ws as ‘Stella’s abstract language is expansive enough to embrace shapes of letters and even punctuation marks.’ By introducing the figurative and symbolic to his work, Stella has allowed the viewer the opportunity to see a variety of things, layers of meaning in each of his pieces. No longer ‘what you see is what you see’ as he so famously said of his then-radical abstractions of the 1960s.

    All quotes from Robert Wallace, Frank Stella’s Moby-Dick: Words and Shapes, Ann Arbor, 2000

  • 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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Brit (Q-6), from the Moby-Dick series

Acrylic, aluminum alloy, steel.
89 x 116 x 110 1/2 in. (226.1 x 294.6 x 280.7 cm)

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $338,500


16 October 2012
New York