BOLD, RICH, VIBRATING: Stella’s ‘Estoril Five II’ (1982)

But, after all, the aim of art is to create space—space that is not compromised by decoration or illustration—space within which the subjects of painting can live

Frank Stella

One of a series collectively called Circuits, all named after motor racing circuits, within which there are four “Talledega”, three “Estoril” prints, one “Imola” and one “Pergusa” print, Estoril names a once popular Grand Prix track now languishing on the Portuguese coast.  Like Stella’s previous print series Exotic Birds (1976-79) for which the curving templates used to plot railway lines marked the imagery, or  Popular Coordinates (1980) employing the memory of racing Ronnie Peterson to develop a visual itinerary, Estoril Five II, of which a partner edition is held by the Tate Collection in the UK, explores the gap between the map and the territory, between topology, passage, and memory.*

Known for his materialist approach to painting and its interpretation, in Estoril Five II the ardent facticity and hardened geometry of Stella’s earlier paintings seems to give way to an idle reference, contained in the title of the piece, and almost nostalgic gesture reminiscent of earlier Abstract Expressionism.  Yet the print maintains Stella’s primary focus: to negate the production of illusion in pictorial practice, albeit through the forceful use of color and experimental baroque compositions.  This work was also doubtlessly influenced by the artist’s residency during the same period at the American Academy in Rome, which later resulted in a series of lectures at Harvard University on his interest on the relationship between the abstract and the baroque, or the project of contemporary abstraction to discover a heritage in art history extending beyond the cubism collapse of space, and in an understanding of Renaissance and early modern painting’s transcendental methods of “direct communication” rather than representation “to recover some of the magic that belonged to those inhospitable pictorial spaces”.**  Magic, or what Furth might call redemption: the bold, the rich, the vibrating.***

Above: detail of Frank Stella Estoril Five II (1980). Four color etching relief print. (26/30) (66 x 51″) Provenance: Tyler Graphics, Bedford Village, New York

Part of the Valerie Furth Collection.

*Some wording and information in the first paragraph above cites the catalogue entry for this piece for the Tate permanent collection.

** See Frank Stella, Working Space. Cambridge, MA: HUP, 1986

*** See the April 16, 2015 post on this site for the reference to Furth’s own writing.

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