The present work is a study for Ifafa I, a shaped canvas painting, as well as a lithograph from the V Series. Created at a pivotal point of Frank Stella’s career, this collage is an important exemplar of the artist’s creative process in transitioning between the two different bodies of work. Stella’s V Series comprises eight lithographs based on the stripe paintings of the Notched-V Series (1964-65). Lithographs of Ifafa I, as well as the other works from the V Series are currently in the collections of notable institutions, such as MoMA and The Met in New York, National Gallery of Art in London, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Frank Stella is a key figure in Post-War American Modernism. Born in 1936 in a suburb of Boston, he attended the Phillips Academy where he was introduced to the work of Josef Albers and Hans Hoffman. In 1958, after graduating from Princeton with a degree in history, he moved to New York and worked as a house painter without intent to become an artist. Shortly thereafter, while operating from a rented studio shared with artist Carl Andre, Stella was introduced to and later represented by dealer Leo Castelli. At age 25, he exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his work during this time gave way to the Minimalist movement that followed.
By 1959, Stella was making symmetrical, linear compositions that alternated bands of black enamel house paint with lines of exposed canvas, creating a unified, forceful, and immediate visual impact and object-like quality. The result was his first series of radical abstractions, the Black Paintings (1958-60). The Black Paintings, in their simplicity and use of a single color, opened new paths for abstraction and exerted a profound influence on the art of the 1960s. In the following decade, Stella began producing shaped canvases that opened up new possibilities for what pictorial structure could be. Rather than serving as neutral supports, the canvas and stretcher bars instead became essential parts of the image. By the mid-1960s he was producing bright, multi-colored, and even more eccentrically shaped paintings with rigidly crisp, geometric forms. During that time, Stella gradually began to incorporate increasingly different kinds of elements into his painting — color, material, and space, as if to see just how far he could push abstraction.
Using a wider range of colors, the artist created his first works using shaped canvases (canvases in a shape other than the traditional rectangle or square), often being in L, N, U or T-shapes. These later developed into more elaborate designs, in the Irregular Polygon series (1967) and the Notched-V Series (1964-65), which later further extended for Stella the concept of the shaped canvas into three-dimensional works. Around the same time, the artist began his engagement with printmaking in the mid-1960s, working first with master printer Kenneth Tyler at Gemini G.E.L. Stella produced a series of prints during the late 1960s starting with a print called Quathlamba I in 1968. Stella's abstract prints used lithography, screenprinting, etching and offset lithography.