Many art museums have traditionally focused their attention on works whose true importance have weathered the objective evaluation of time and avoided contemporary acquisitions as a matter of policy. In the last decade a speeded-up life style and almost instantaneous art history have required these same institutions to afford the living artist more attention. In addition, the fierce competition for quality works of all ages by an increasing number of museums (and the resulting depletion) has encouraged many institutions to develop acquisition and exhibition programs devoted to art of the present.Tahkt-I-Sulayman Variation II,1
a key work from a series of canvases based on the semicircle or protractor shape begun in 1968, is a welcomed and significant addition to the Institute's contemporary holdings. It is the largest painting to be added to the permanent collection and one of the most important works acquired at an early stage of an artist's career. Few artists could have qualified for a retrospective exhibition in a leading museum2
after his first dozen years of painting, but Stella's output to date has been so influential on those artists continuing in the tradition of geometrical abstraction that such a tribute is understandable.Stella has abandoned an earlier austerity for a vocabulary that is notable primarily for its large size, luscious, fluorescent color, rhythmic patterns and overall surface finesse ranging from basic geometric shapes to enormously intricate designs.In Tahkt-I-Sulayman
Stella has created an illusionary space by means of contrasting violent, day-glo colors and interlacing discs. In most works of this series the graceful, circular forms weave in and around each other in complex patterns, but “simplified symmetry” best describes this painting. In fact, the work is carefully balanced around a composition that repeatedly draws our eye to the center of the picture and requires little sustained reading; its impact is immediately jarring. The decorative format recalls early American Indian pottery designs that served as rainbow, cloud, and rising sun motifs during the twenties and thirties. Stella's calculated blend of rational design with a baroque ebullience has made him one of the most publicized and popular painters of the sixties.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 69.132. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce B. Dayton. Acrylic on canvas, 120” x 240”. Painted 1969. King Sulayman's throne. According to a recent archaeological survey, Takht-i-Sulaiman in Azerbaijan, Persia, was an elevated site serving as sacred grounds perhaps as early as pre-Median times. Later, under the Sassanians, it apparently had a dynastic and religious significance.
- The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970.
- Frank Stella. American (1936- ). Tahkt-I-Sulayman Variation, II, 1969. Acrylic on canvas, 120” x 240”. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce B. Dayton, 69.132.