Frank Stella

Frank Stella
The Grand Armada (IRS, No. 6,1X), 1989
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Frank Stella
The Grand Armada (IRS, No. 6,1X), 1989

Mixed media on aluminum, 315 x 186.5 x 99 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

From 1988 onwards, Frank Stella produced a cycle of works titled “The Moby Dick Series” in the course of his intense preoccupation with the novel Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville. Matching the book’s 138 chapters, he created 135 aluminium reliefs, among them The Grand Armada (IRS, no. 6, 1X). Measuring some 3 metres high by 2 metres wide, this work projects the viewer into the midst of the story of the white whale Moby Dick, furiously chased across the oceans of the world by Captain Ahab. The work’s variously shaped and painted elements stand for the surging masses of water, for parts of the ship, but also for the depths of the ocean, and offer a vivid enactment of the novel’s narrative. Yet The Grand Armada is less an illustration of the text than a painterly and sculptural expression of the high seas. Viewers are positively swept away by the intense colours and the dynamism of the billowing forms.

Frank Stella

b. 1936, Malden, Massachusetts

While the early work of the American painter, printmaker and sculptor, who studied art in Andover and New Jersey, was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, he went on to become the leading exponent of analytical Hard Edge and Colour Field painting. In the late 1950s Stella became known for his striking Black Paintings, which consist mainly of black or metallic stripes in allusion to the Nazi period. His later works, however, are characterized by brightly coloured rectangular, semicircular and other geometric forms, as seen in many of his ‘shaped canvases’. Since the 1970s Stella has above all produced large-format, three-dimensional works made of wood, cardboard and metal.

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