"At nearly 8 x 23 feet, The Fountain is one of the largest fine-art prints ever made. Even working here on the scale of the metal reliefs, Stella was still attracted to the pictorial potential of the flat surface, as further evidenced by the large collages, murals, and canvas paintings he was producing. For this leviathan-sized grand summary work in Stella’s Moby Dick prints, the artist employed a virtuoso mixing of media, pulling together sixty-seven colors and seven processes: woodcut, etching, aquatint, relief, and drypoint, printed on three sheets of handmade paper layered with screenprinted handmade paper-collage elements. Yet The Fountain is essentially a woodcut, printed from three carved blocks faced with mahogany veneers that were embedded with 108 shaped and etched metal plates.
Stella worked from a full-size collage, which he began in mid-1989. It was composed of fragments of rejected and partially printed proofs, primarily from the Moby Dick prints produced at Tyler Graphics. Stella also drew upon proofs from earlier print series like the Circuits and Italian Folktales and from proofs of smoke rings, insinuating at the end collage pieces of marbleized paper found in studio. These fragments could be enlarged, cut to create new shapes, or reworked. The finished collage was then adapted for special print matrices. Color areas were printed from the metal insert plates. The dominant black passages and curvilinear line-work were printed from the routed woodblocks, forming a rhapsodic play on the wave shapes of Stella’s Moby Dick project.
“The Fountain” is chapter 85 of Melville’s Moby-Dick. The title refers to the spray expelled through the blowhole of the great sperm whale when it surfaces, having remained submerged for up to an hour (the composition of the spray is debated among scientists). The grandeur of the whale’s size, which the chapter celebrates, is aptly translated in the scale of Stella’s The Fountain. In a touch that is a literal reference to chapter 85, Stella incorporated a rainbow-like crescent in the upper left corner of the print, which alludes to Melville’s description of the spewed mistiness from the whale’s spout as 'glorified by a rainbow.'”
– Richard Axsom, Frank Stella Prints, p. 317