Frank Stella Italian Folktales Series, 1988-89

Frank Stella working on a print in his studio
Frank Stella working on a print in his studio

Frank Stella Italian Folktales Series, 1988-89 is a relatively small series, comprised of eight total prints which take their bases from Stella’s Cones and Pillars relief paintings. The names of the pieces are derived from the titles of short stories based on Italian Folktales.

In this series, Stella employs aquatint printing for the first time to imitate the effect of oil paint brush strokes which are present in the background of the Cones and Pillars paintings.

The first piece of the series is entitled La penna di hu (The Peacock Feather) . The composition is dominated by a beautiful warm orange and blue and contain many of the same cylindrical and conical shapes  that first appeared in Stella’s earlier Had Gadya Series.

Frank Stella La penna di hu, 1988 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella La penna di hu, 1988 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989

The second piece shares the title of the first, but is a completely different monochromatic composition, created masterfully by Stella from elements of the first work, here reassembled and wiped of color.

Frank Stella La penna di hu (black and white), 1988 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella La penna di hu (black and white), 1988 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989

 

The third piece, entitled Bene come il sale (Dear as Salt),  1989, is a glowing vertical composition that showcases the beauty of the aquatint process in the  splashes of green, pink, and blue that appear in the lower right, creating a wonderful juxtaposition with the warm and muted color palette of the rest of the piece.

Frank Stella Bene come il sale, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989

The next four works are variations of the Bene come il sale. The pieces are very similar at first glance, dominated by a dark backdrop on which a a form constructed of curves, cones, and cylinders, floats like a mysterious and colorful emblem.

Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State I, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State I, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State II, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State II, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State III, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State III, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State IV, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Bene come il sale, State IV, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989

 

The last piece of the series, entitled Giufa e la berretta rossa, once again reuses elements of the previous pieces to create a new composition, with the addition of a glowing blue border which echoes the blue elements at the center of the piece.

Frank Stella Giufa e la berretta rossa, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989
Frank Stella Giufa e la berretta rossa, 1989 from the Italian Folktales Series, 1988-1989

 

In the Italian Folktale series, Stella further pushes the power of “abstract narrative” which he successfully explores in the Had Gadya Series.  Stella’s ability to creative a cohesive narrative through the repetition of abstract shapes is beautifully showcased in these 8 large-scale prints.

 

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