Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I), 1970

Basel 2016
Marianne Boesky Gallery, Sprüth Magers
acrylic on canvas on shaped stretcher
304.8 x 1524.0 (cm)
120.0 x 600.0 (inch)
In the late 1960s, Frank Stella began his Protractor series, introducing an expanded vocabulary of angles, curves, and rich fluorescent colors. Named after ancient sites in Asia Minor, each of these paintings is defined by a symmetrical base of squares and circles, intersected by what Stella calls ‘interlaces,’ ‘rainbows,’ and ‘fans.’ While these bands vary in brightness and tone, their interwoven patterns compose a harmonious polyphony. There is no depth in the compositions; instead, through a unique play of color and form, the Protractor paintings exemplify the preeminence of flatness in Stella’s abstract work. One of the last completed Protractor paintings, Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I) is also one of the largest paintings in the series, forcing the viewer to either stand at a distance, or walk along its 50 feet. This engagement with the exhibition space mirrors the way viewers of Stella’s later, three-dimensional work would also be encouraged to think in the round. Variation III was included in Stella’s recent retrospective at the Whitney, New York, which travels to the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth in the summer of 2016 and the de Young Museum, San Francisco, this winter.