Then came Death and Took the Butcher
from the series Illustrations after El Lissitzky, 1982-84
Mixed media print
73 x 63 inches
American artist Frank Stella achieved fame in his early twenties when his black strip series was exhibited in 1959 at the Museum of Modern Art. His paintings were a bold challenge to existing criteria of taste. Stella was the first to develop a non-figurative style incorporating the shape of the canvas as an integral part of the design. His diverse body of work represents his attempt to make the actual physical object the focus, and it is considered to be the touchstone of minimal art. Further experimental techniques led him to design works painted with several media using wide strips of magnesium, twisted and bent into sculptural configurations, incorporating fabric and metal.
In 1982-84 Stella produced a series of twelve complex, large-scale mixed media prints employing such techniques as hand coloring, collaged images with lithography, linoleum block, silk-screen and rubber relief. This series of abstract prints called Illustrations after El Lissitzky were inspired by the Russian artist El Lissitzky who painted a series called Had Gadya in 1919. Stella was intrigued with the idea of solving the problem of constructing pieces based on an abstract narrative. The song,
In this print, half of a gridded white globe is placed on the right side of a vertical black rectangle. Two tall, bright, non-geometric shapes compose the left side of the frame. Two black and white vertical striped cones with purple, orange and mint centers are in the bottom right corner. The larger cone is at a tilt and extends outside the bottom frame. The second cone perpendicularly intersects this cone. Above this is a third cone which extends beyond the right side of the composition. Near the top of the print are three connected pyramids. The collage effect of geometric and non-geometric shapes results in a dynamic work.