FIRUZABAD (Variation) 1970
Acrylic on Canvas
Frank STELLA b. 1936
This is the first in a series of blog posts that examines singular works of art - up close, through my own particular non-linear singular obsessions, in visual art - about process, creation, ideas, art history and detailed, sometimes macro photography. Welcome, and enjoy.
Firuzabad is a work from the Protractor series of paintings, 71 super punchy highly technical geometric designs both in execution of the imagery and the shapes of the canvasses themselves.
In 1967 during Stella's time at Emma Lake, Artist's Workshop, in Saskatchewan Canada, (an artists think tank of sorts that saw the likes of Barnett Newman, John Cage, Clement Greenberg pass through its doors.) is where this body of work was initiated. Yup, looove the Canadian connection!
All the works in the Protractor series are based on ancient cities in the middle east that Stella visited. He translated the ancient city plans and geographic layouts to the canvasses themselves. I'll explain.
FIRUZABAD is an ancient city in southwestern Iran its circular plan was designed and built between the 3rd & 7th C. that included 3 ringed walls. Now, take a look at the satellite image of Firuzabad and compare how Stella riffs on this simple layout to create both a modern masterpiece and an homage to the design and architectural masterpiece of the ancient Sassanian culture.
While carressing the paint surface with my eyes I was intrigued by the dafting marks Stella left behind. I loved the macro compositions I could create from the intersection of paint and pencil.
Ok, so are you still with me? Researching Firuzabad and Sassanian Empire architecture I learned a new word. Squinch.
Squinch is a structural solution to the problem of "how do you build a dome ontop of a cube...without the dome collapsing?"
A Squinch of course!
- (incidentally it is believed that this support was invented by the Sassanian culture at Firuzabad)
(I have included images as well - Thx to Wiki CC)
Soooo, now you see, what I saw in Stella's Firuzabad painting were the drafting squinches that literally held and created the work!