Conway III

Conway III
Frank Stella (American, 1936–)
Fluorescent alkyd resin and epoxy paint on canvas 
80-3/4 x 122-3/4 in. (205.1 x 311.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Thomas G. Terbell, Jr. Family 
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

Conway III, part of Frank Stella’s Irregular Polygon series of the mid-’60s, makes an instant visual impact thanks to its fluorescent colors and inventive design—a parallelogram slotted into a rectangle. The hybrid geometry of this composition dictates the shape of the canvas as well, which, together with its 5-inch-thick stretcher, accentuate the painting’s object quality. The dynamic diagonal of the parallelogram penetrating the rectangle, itself free of delimiting bands of color at its top edge, imparts a vivid sense of spatial illusion. But in the absence of pictorial elements, including overlap and value contrast, the composition remains unremittingly flat and surface specific.

Stella experimented with two different pigments here—Day Glo, which requires multiple layers to achieve opacity, and epoxy enamels, which dry to a hard, glossy finish. With mediums of such different character, the uniform look he achieved with these close-valued colors is all the more notable. Stella used 1/4-inch masking tape both to separate the color fields while painting and to add space between them. He knew the thinners in the paint would eat through the tape, leaving a slightly irregular edge to each area of color. The unpainted canvas between the color bands was vital to the design too, for as Stella said, “without them the Irregular Polygons would have become Hard-Edge paintings.....Leaving them out would have killed the space, and made the pictures snap around a lot. ....the necessity of separating the colors, that breathing, that soft line, and that identification of [color with] the ground seemed very important to me…”


[Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, to];
[Ferus/Pace Gallery, Los Angeles, to];
[Irving Blum Gallery, Los Angeles, to];
Thomas G. Terbell, Jr. family, Pasadena, gift 1970 to;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1970-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 1975.

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