Exhibition Preview | Frank Stella Unbound: Literature and Printmaking

Frank Stella (American, born 1936), Fattipuff, 1996. Lithograph, screenprint, etching, aquatint, and relief on white TGL handmade paper, diam. Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960. © Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New YorkFrank Stella Unbound honors the sixtieth reunion of Princeton University alumnus Frank Stella, Class of 1958, one of the most celebrated artists of our time. Featuring forty-one works from four major print series, the exhibition is the first to focus on the vital role that literature played in the artist’s groundbreaking explorations of the print medium.

Between 1984 and 1999, Stella produced four ambitious series of prints that take their titles from literary works—an illustrated publication of Had Gadya, the traditional Passover song; a collection of Italian folktales, transcribed by Italo Calvino; the epic American novel Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville; and the illustrated encyclopedia The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, a compendium of fictional geographies. Stella reaffirmed his commitment to abstraction in his exploration of these texts, finding in literature various organizational structures for his compositions. Responding to the rhythm, lyricism, and imagination of the fictional works, he transformed their narrative properties into a visual vocabulary of gesture and geometric forms, imbuing his abstract compositions with energy, balance, and illusionistic effects.

Crowning achievements in his graphic oeuvre, the prints in these series are of an unprecedented scale and complexity, technical feats in printmaking that Stella achieved in partnership with the master printer Ken Tyler. In these works, Stella engaged in an active cross-pollination between his practices in painting, sculpture, and printmaking that transformed his visual language and working processes in all media.

Frank Stella Unbound: Literature and Printmaking will be on view at Princeton from May 19 through September, 23, 2018, after which it will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville.