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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.