FRANK STELLA (b. 1936)
FRANK STELLA (b. 1936)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… 显示更多 Property from a Private European Museum
FRANK STELLA (b. 1936)


FRANK STELLA (b. 1936)
alkyd on canvas
63 x 126 in. (160 x 320 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Wasserman Development Corporation, 1967
Ben C. Deane, Newport Beach
Harold Diamond, New York
Private collection, New York
Jimmy Robinson, Palm Beach
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009
Enschede, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Abstract USA 1958 - 1968: In the Galleries, September 2010-February 2011, p. 62, no. 25 (illustrated).
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This lot has undergone a history of restoration. For more information please contact a member of the team at
Please note the estimate is USD 750,000 – USD 1,000,000.


Kathryn Widing
Kathryn Widing Vice President, Senior Specialist, Head of 21st Century Evening Sale


"The Concentric Squares created a pretty high, pretty tough pictorial standard. Their simple, rather humbling effect—almost a numbing power—became a sort of ‘control’ against which my increasing tendency in the seventies to be extravagant could be measured." Frank Stella
A pair of nested squares invert each other in theme in Frank Stella’s expansive 1967 work, WLID. On the right, the largest, outer square is an off-white. Tunneling inward five rungs, the progressing lines form a gradient of warmer greys that halt in a dark, near-black charcoal. This series of darkening shades reverses from this point until they end at the very center with another off-white, solid square. Each rung is bordered only by blank canvas, creating a sense of geometric definition and rhythm. The gradient of grey creates an illusion of depth, but the inversion midway complicates it. The lighter rungs instinctively feel closer to the viewer, while the darkest rung recesses into the distance. Where the push and pull, from light to dark, begins is uncertain, and so the whole of the nestled squares pulses from either direction. In contrast, the left of the nestled squares is comprised of a series of vibrant colors: a dayglow rainbow. The same general pattern is echoed, where instead of the white bookending the pattern of the squares, it is a royal purple which then moves to blue, green, red, orange, and finally, instead of a darkest grey, the brightest neon yellow acts as the midpoint before the sequence reverses. A thin white boarder of unpigmented space equally distinguishes these more colorful squares. However, where the white and grey fabricated an illusion of movement due to their associations with shades, their colorful counterpart appears almost flat and rigid by comparison. What the artist ultimately creates through these two nestled squares juxtaposed is a dialogue about the energy latent within color as opposed to the movement that can be created and manipulated through the use of light contrasting dark.
At the inception of Stella’s career, painterly abstraction, emotionally charged action painting, and frenetically passionate technique were proliferating throughout the work of many key figures in the art scene. Though he was cognizant of the significance of this movement and the potent legacy of these artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Stella’s utilization of abstraction paved a very different road. Stella’s exposure to Jasper Johns’ 1958 show at Leo Castelli Gallery, Target and Flag, surely left a mark on the young artist, who observed how the stripes filled a composition from edge to edge. “Learning how to make abstract paintings is just about learning how to paint, literally learning what paint and canvas do. Paint and canvas are not spiritual” (F. Stella, quoted by M. Auping, “The Phenomenology of Frank / Materiality and Gesture Make Space” in M. Auping, Frank Stella: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2016., p. 16). As was the case with Johns, Stella believed that ideology and logic trumped emotion.
With a concentration firmly rooted in rigid geometry and ordered linework, Stella substituted the voracity of Abstract Expressionism for intentional restraint and highly controlled concentration. His now iconic Concentric Squares series paid homage to the past movement while making new use of the vibrant color pallet and release from figuration his predecessors had provided. These stylistic changes to the landscape of contemporary art in his time would usher in a new mode of art making known as ‘post-painterly abstraction’ that would chart the course from Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism with Stella as its figurehead. As William Rubin, curator of Stella’s Museum of Modern Art, New York retrospective wrote in 1970, “At a time when abstract painting is frequently characterized by narrowness of its stylistic range, Stella’s… [art] reveals an extraordinary variety, not simply in the aesthetic structuring of the pictures but in their expressive character” (W. Rubin, Frank Stella, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970). A testament to the artist’s ability to formulate engrossing compositions from simple, concise bands of pigment and miniscule strips of bare canvas, WLID stunningly encapsulates the pioneering techniques Stella brought to the world of abstraction.
For Stella, the significance of his Concentric Squares works like the present example could not be over stated. Often creating these works using the width of his paintbrush as a fixed guide, the artist would meticulously plan out his compositions, carefully crafting the space in which his rippling squares would reside in harmonious geometry. In following a his self-made set of structured guidelines, Stella was able to create in this series of works, a symbiotic relationship between the colors, lines, and space of the canvas from which he would measure his successes in the decades to come. As his career advanced, he would constantly return to the precise order of works such as WLID stating, “The Concentric Squares created a pretty high, pretty tough pictorial standard. Their simple, rather humbling effect—almost a numbing power—became a sort of ‘control’ against which my increasing tendency in the seventies to be extravagant could be measured.” (F. Stella, quoted in Frank Stella 1970-1987, exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1987, p. 48).
Almost undulating in their illusionary configurations, the nested squares of Frank Stella’s WLID draw the viewer in with hypnotic rhythm and mesmerizing contrast. Taking shape in one of the renowned artist’s most iconic form, these concentric squares emulate Stella’s artistic prowess and pioneering plunge into post-painterly abstraction. Intricately planned through his own preconfigured set of guidelines, this example sits proudly within an extensive body of captivating work. Constantly pushing the bounds established by those who came before him, Frank Stella wrestled the chaos of abstraction into his own ordered visage, setting the stage for the generations of artists who would come next.

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