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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection

Cinema de Pepsi III

Cinema de Pepsi III
fluorescent alkyd and acrylic on canvas
69 1/8 x 138 1/8 in. (175.6 x 350.8 cm.)
Painted in 1966
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto.
Estate of John C. Parkin, Toronto.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 2 May 1989, lot 69.
S. Bitter-Larkin Gallery, New York.
Private collection, Paris.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 27 June 2002, lot 28.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie's has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie's therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. The third party will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk based on a fixed fee if the third party is the successful bidder or on the final hammer price in the event that the third party is not the successful bidder. The third party may also bid for the lot above the written bid. Third party guarantors are required by us to disclose to anyone they are advising their financial interest in any lots they are guaranteeing. However, for the avoidance of any doubt, if you are advised by or bidding through an agent on a lot identified as being subject to a third party guarantee you should always ask your agent to confirm whether or not he or she has a financial interest in relation to the lot.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

At a time in art history when emotion, vigor, and painterly gusto were at their peak, Frank Stella championed decisive order and awe-inspiring control amidst the chaos. As a leading figure in ushering in the stylistic change known as post-painterly abstraction that would pave the way between Abstract Expressionism and the later tenets of Minimalism, he is one of the most influential American painters of the postwar period. Cinema de Pepsi III is a striking early example of the artist’s ability to create absorptive compositions from even bands of paint separated only by miniscule strips of canvas. Simple in theory, these paintings extend outward from their own borders to envelop any space or viewer nearby. As Robert Rosenblum noted, “These rectilinear relationships never produce discrete, self-sufficient shapes, but radiate beyond the canvas edges. Stella’s rectangles, whether expanding concentrically or segmented by the perimeter, imply infinite extendibility, the taut fragments of a potentially larger whole.” (R. Rosenblum, Frank Stella, Baltimore, 1971, p. 17). In a career-long endeavor, the artist has championed immediacy and a forthright mode of working in an effort to more closely bind the viewing experience with the painter’s process. Emerging from the tumultuous decade of larger than life painters like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Stella wrestled with the overpowering call of gestural abstraction and bent line and canvas to his whim.

Following the lead of his previous Concentric Squares canvases, Cinema de Pepsi III trades the nesting quadrilaterals for a pair of segmented, rectilinear spirals. Both of the elements are equal in size and boast identical twists as the artist coaxes his signature painted line into a number of contorted revolutions. On the left, he does so in myriad colors and tones with each level alternating from hot colors like neon orange and bright yellow to cooler stripes of blue, purple, and various shades of green. On the right, the tact is followed in monochrome with a steady vacillation between black, white, and all the grays in between. It should be noted that while the shapes have a corollary (the right is rotated 180 degrees), they are not color and grayscale versions of each other. Where there is dark in one, there is light in another which further entrances the viewer on extended inspection.

This invitation for looking is directly in line with Stella’s ethos throughout his career, having stated, "My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there...If the painting were lean enough, accurate enough or right enough you would just be able to look at it. All I want of them, is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion... What you anyone to get out of my paintings, and all I ever get out see is what you see" (F. Stella, quoted in W. Rubin, Frank Stella, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970, p. 76). With this painting, one is lost in the dizzying optical refinement presented in each swirling spiral as they push and pull at our eyes in an effort to fully enthrall.

Though Stella has worked in a number of discrete series throughout his illustrious career, he has always insisted that each work exists within a large, continuous personal timeline. In the works of the 1950s and 60s, like Cinema de Pepsi III, the artist frequently relied on the set width of his paintbrush to form orderly, precise lines. Setting up a system first with planned gaps of bare canvas between color and a programmatic approach to creating helped him to more fully explore his materials. When he began to branch out in the 1970s, it was works like the present example that he measured his success against. “The Concentric Squares created a pretty high, pretty tough pictorial standard,” he noted. “Their simple, rather humbling effect—almost a numbing power—became a sort of ‘control’ against which my increasing tendency in the seventies to be extravagant could be measured.” (F. Stella, quoted in Frank Stella 1970-1987, exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1987, p. 44). Each of his paintings follow a set of guidelines that create a symbiotic relationship between the colors, lines, and the support itself. There is never extra space or a feeling of claustrophobia. Instead, paintings like the present example feel perfectly spaced and ordered. This attention to dimensions and details prefigured much of the later Minimalist concerns and helped to transition into conversations about figure and ground relationships. Working in a self-imposed rigorous structure, Stella continuously pushed beyond his own limits in order to develop and evolve his practice into the next logical iteration. By doing so, he established a body of work that has been monumentally influential for generations of artists.

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