Propery from the Collection of Darby Bannard
1958 was a seminal year in the life and pioneering career of Frank Stella and the works offered herein from the Collection of Darby Bannard are testament to this claim. These works including paintings, drawings and assemblages reveal Stella's iconoclastic view towards abstract expressionism and his formal desire to create a visually stimulating surface that denies even the faintest hint of pictorial illusion. Stella was looking toward the developing ideas of Carl Andre, Stella's one time studio-mate, and the pioneering works of Robert Rauschenberg who was then producing his classic Combine works--treating the surface of a painting as a depository for the accumulation of raw and scavenged materials. It is easy to glimpse the impact these works impressed upon Stella as he used Rauschenberg's compositional formula to create his own found-object assemblages, lot 105 and lot 106, that defy easy classification. Rauschenberg's Combine structure gave the necessary permission to Stella, opening the door for his experiments with automatism, allowing for a final foray into improvisation before trading in a maximalist vocabulary for a refined and sublimated formal mode of expression.
There are surprisingly few paintings accounted for or documented from the years 1958-1959. Lots 101-102 are prime examples of the artist's work at this time, both works are finished paintings in their own right and are early works utilizing the "stripe" motif that Stella will continue to refine and use as a formal component in his coveted masterpieces, the Black paintings of 1958-1960 and the Metallic series from 1960-1963. These paintings remain expressionistic and tied to the work of predecessors like Robert Motherwell, and more specifically Jasper Johns for whom the stripe motif had also played a role in defining his Flag painting of 1954-1955, which was an important precursor to Stella's own object-like paintings, albeit with an appropriated image based structure. These two Untitled works by Stella have an inner light that glows only brighter as the expressive black brushstrokes attempt to annihilate the works romantic appeal.
Like Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella was picking up the torch of Modernism as espoused by Clement Greenberg and taking it to its logical extreme. However varied the results, each of these artists worked toward a similar goal; the flattened or shallow picture plane, optical vibrancy and the promotion of a literal object-like surface. However, early on, Stella allowed himself little latitude within his motif. While Morris Louis allowed gravity to assist the paint in it's descent over the surface of the unprimed canvas Stella brushed his paint on the canvas emphatically with an aggressive determination. Stella was in essence re-evaluating the work of the Abstract Expressionists and reinvigorating their ideals in terms of scale, all over composition and gesture. Stella's confidence and assuredness are readily visible in each of the works offered herein and most prosaically in the dramatic black and white charcoal drawings in which the artist's thoughts, ideas and concepts germinated.
These works from the Collection of Darby Bannard, Stella's classmate, contemporary and occasional collaborator, are historical gems from a recent and treasured past.