Damascus Gate I

Damascus Gate I
Frank Stella (American, 1936–)
Fluorescent alkyd resin on canvas 
96-1/8 x 384 x 3-1/16 in. (244.2 x 975.4 x 7.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Museum, Partial Museum Purchase and Partial Gift of the Fellows 
Accession Number:
© 2017 Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 
Not on View

Frank Stella was one of the most significant and original painters of the 1960s. His considerable gifts as a colorist and his sense of the decorative potential of abstraction are both evident in Damascus Gate. Though the painting appears to be light years from his severely reductive Black Paintings that shocked the art world in MOMA’s 1959 exhibition “Sixteen Americans,” it illustrates Stella’s continued concern with pattern, a preoccupation that allowed him to stabilize and organize the painterly energy of Abstract Expressionism.

This painting is part of the Protractor Series, named after the drafting tool used for measuring and constructing angles and inspired by Stella’s travel to Middle Eastern cities with circular plans and archaeological sites. Using a beam compass, Stella laid out a system of semicircles extending horizontally, the canvas shape echoing the surface design. Stella’s architectural concerns here take an enormous step, literally, as he experiments with wall-size scale: this painting measures 32 feet long. The sensuous appeal of his color and the visual rhythm of the hemispheres that appear to interlace and overlap are exciting to behold at this scale. As Stella said, “My main interest has been to make what is called decorative painting truly viable in unequivocal abstract terms. Decorative…in the sense that it is applied to Matisse. What I mean is that I would like to combine the abandon and indulgence of Matisse’s ‘Dance’ with the overall strength and sheer formal inspiration of a picture like his ‘Moroccans.’”


Frank Stella, to;
[Irving Blum Gallery, Los Angeles, partial gift/purchase to];
Fellows Acquisition Fund, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1969-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 1975.

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