American, born 1936
Enamel on canvas
90 3/8 x 78 3/4 inches (229.6 x 200 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1962
Frank Stella first came to the attention of the art world with his so-called “Black Paintings,” which he created between the winter of 1958 and February 1960. He began by drawing lines with a pencil and ruler, then painted the black stripes freehand—without the use of tape—using enamel and a 2 1/2-inch-wide housepainter’s brush. The light strips between the black are blank canvas showing through. In a radio interview of February 1964, Stella made a statement that has since become well-known in the history of twentieth-century art: “My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. . . . All I want anyone to get out of my paintings, and all I ever get out of them, is the fact that you can see the whole idea without any confusion. . . . What you see is what you see.” The referential titles of the “Black Paintings” might seem to negate Stella’s goal of having them relate to nothing outside themselves, but because they refer to aspects of Stella’s life rather than to the content of the paintings, they shed little interpretative light on the works. Most of the titles of the “Black Paintings” refer to specific places in New York and elsewhere, music, literature, politics, and various nightclubs. Jill is the only one named for a contemporary individual—a woman who, according to Stella, “was around at the time” as a part of New York’s underground nightclub scene.
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