Directly indebted to Jill, 1959, in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, is one of the most important of Stella's watershed Black Paintings from 1958-1959. Jill marks an important transition from this series to the Aluminum Paintings of 1960. The application of this concentric geometric configuration with the iridescent glow of "burglar-alarm tape" produces an entirely new aesthetic.
The lustrous surface reflects and pushes outward, proof of Stella's pivotal move away from the flat, matte finish of the Black Paintings which, conversely, absorb and consume. The monochromatic nature of the iridescent material acts as a strategy of negating aesthetic imposition, in so far as each viewer has an automatic, optical experience similar to that of the next viewer. The subjective, narrative reading of an image is thus resisted, while the inherent effect of the material takes over.
The unyielding devotion to the severity of logic and linearity of this piece is tied to Stella's quest to force "illusionistic space out of the painting at a constant rate by using a regulated pattern." (F. Stella quoted by W. Rubin, Frank Stella, New York, 1970, p. 11). Remaining faithful to abstraction, as Stella believed abstract art was the "art worth making," Jill is an obvious precursor to the Aluminum Series, which would constitute his first solo show at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York. This series was executed in simple stripe patterns with metallic paint of aluminum color. Due to the difficulty of this medium, Stella began using "shaped canvases," further deviating from the convention of the rectangular canvas. One immediately recognizes the rapport between the Aluminum series and the brilliant, and, indeed, anomalous character of the material used for Jill.
Exhibiting a highly simplistic aesthetic with no inherent rules or boundaries, Stella's work follows a logical geometric composition of lines and is entirely self-referential, "Stella was able to make the fact that the literal shape determines the structure of the entire painting completely perspicuous. That is, although the shapes appear to generate the stripe-patterns, the prior decision to achieve deductive structure by means of this particular relation between the stripes and the framing-edge played an important role in determining the character of the shapes." (M. Fried quoted in W. Rubin, Frank Stella, New York, 1970, p.55).
Jill is a rare work, Stella made very few works of this scale; it is in concert with Stella's signature works and a piece in staggering defiance. It is a testament to the artist's genius and a testament to his enduring struggle for the autonomy of art. Jill takes on a life of its own, deflecting the outside world, while reflecting nothing.