Between 1984 and 1999, the acclaimed American artist Frank Stella executed four groundbreaking print series – each taking its inspiration from a literary text: Had Gadya, Italian Folktales, Moby Dick and the Dictionary of Imaginary Places. In the process, Stella’s creative practice evolved to create prints of unprecedented scale and complexity, through which he both achieved a technical and expressive milestone in fine-art printmaking and transformed his visual language in all media.
Frank Stella Unbound: Literature and Printmaking will present 41 prints from Stella’s four literary print series, alongside historical editions of their literary catalysts. This exhibition at The Princeton University Art Museum focuses on the critical role that world literature played in Stella’s powerful exploration of the print medium.
It all began in 1983 during a prestigious year-long appointment at Harvard University and has just completed a residency at the American Academy in Rome when Stella began working on a print series entitled Illustrations after El Lissitzky’s Had Gadya. It was the first of four consecutive pioneering print series named for literary sources, each of which has a distinctive narrative structure.
In each of these bodies of work, Stella advanced his visual thinking and the technical processes that allowed him to break the boundaries between the surface plane of the picture and the representation of spatial depth. At the same time, he developed a language of assembled materials and layered processes with which he explored the narrative potential of abstract forms.