Warka I

Warka I

1973
Artist
Frank Stella, American, 1936-
Born: Malden, MA
Work Locations: New York
Country
United States
collage, painting
Acrylic paint, felt, and cardboard on canvas
Funds from National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant and anonymous donors
1974.77

Frank Stella
Warka I, 1973
Acrylic paint, felt, and cardboard on canvas
Funds from National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Grant and anonymous donors, 1974.77

Dimensions
height: 93 in, 236.2200 cm; width: 108 in, 274.3200 cm; depth: 3 1/2 in, 8.8900 cm
Department
Modern and Contemporary Art
Collection
Modern and Contemporary Art
Frank Stella Warka I, 1973 Mixed media, 234 x 244 cm (92 x 96 in.) Funds from the National Endowment for the Arts Purchase Program and private contributions, 1974.77 For Frank Stella's generation, the legacy of abstract expressionism was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, Jackson Pollock and his colleagues had opened the door for artists to explore large-scale abstraction. On the other, they infused their canvases with a heroic romanticism, a display of personal passion that struck the younger, cooler generation as unseemly. Stella, who studied both liberal and studio arts at Phillips Andover Academy and Princeton University, was one of a few artists to recognize that the bathwater could be thrown out and the baby saved. "The worthwhile qualities of painting are always going to be both visual and emotional, and it's got to be a convincing emotional experience," he said. "Otherwise it will not be a good - not to say, great - painting." During the 1960s, Stella produced three quite different bodies of work before starting the Polish Village series, to which Warka I belongs. His first series of shaped black paintings were the counterpart of Carl Andre's minimalist sculptures. These austere canvases, their surfaces covered with wide, brushy black stripes that followed the irregular configurations of the stretcher boards, confounded the critics. "My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen is there," Stella explained. "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." But unlike his friend Andre, Stella moved from minimalism toward increasingly eccentric shapes and colors: the banded, colored planes of the Irregular Polygons, the lusciously colored interlacing arcs that characterized the Protractor paintings, and, in 1970, the three-dimensional Polish Village series. "While I was recuperating from knee surgery, I read a book about Polish synagogues, put out by the Polish government as a memorial to the architecture destroyed by the Nazis," the artist recalled, "and did a set of drawings that were partly protractor interlace ideas, combined with my thoughts about irregular polygons." These, in turn, reminded him of the reliefs made by the Russian constructivist Vladimir Tatlin. Back in his studio, Stella began, literally, to push the planes of color off the surface; he cut out and attached cardboard shapes to canvas or board so as to produce work described more accurately as low relief sculpture. He toned down his palette, perhaps mindful of the somber theme (each work in the series is named after one of the synagogue villages) and added the texture of felt or sand to some of the surfaces. Warka I is among the most subdued and meditative of the series. Its irregular geometry still acknowledges the rectangle, its tilting planes hover near the wall, and the rich reds, oranges, and blues are comparatively muted. The Denver Art Museum acquired Warka I in 1974, the year after it was completed and four years before a department or a budget for contemporary art had been established. At the urging of assistant director Lewis Story, the museum applied for matching purchase funds to the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Story's farsihted recommendation set a standard against which the quality of acquisitions is still measured.

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