Frank Stella first came to the attention of the art world around 1960 with a series of austere geometric canvases known as the Black Paintings. When Stella first exhibited them, they were received as rather mute, inert, and even nihilistic. The compositions of these nearly two-dozen works fall into two general formats: the earlier paintings are rectilinear, while the later ones, such as “Jill,” are based on diamond patterns. Stella began this series by drawing lines with a pencil and ruler. The black stripes were then painted freehand using enamel and a two and a half inch wide housepainter’s brush. The off-white stripes between the black are simply the raw canvas breathing through. With these works, Stella aimed to reject the past and create something altogether new. Although this particular painting is named after a girl that Stella knew, its composition demonstrates his desire to move away from any representational illusion as well as the emotional content found in works by the preceding generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. Stella’s goal was to treat the work’s imagery as no more or less than the sum of its physical components—in this case, paint and canvas.

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