Frank Stella’s Pilica II

Frank Stella, Pilica II, 1973. Mixed media assemblage on wood, 110 3/4 x 94 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1974.

In a recent Spotlight Tour about Frank Stella’s Pilica II (1973), I was conflicted between Stella’s minimalism and the desire to define what was in front of me. Like we do with clouds passing by, it is human nature to want to assign a specific label to abstract shapes occurring in both nature and art. Other viewers at the talk struggled to determine which artistic medium Pilica II fits into. Is it a sculpture? Bas-relief? Stella’s own description “mixed media assemblage on wood” seemed too vague to accept. Continue reading

Dissolving Objects

Wassily Kandinsky, "Painting with White Border (Moscow)," 1913, 55 1/4 x 78 7/8 in. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, By gift 37.245. © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

Because Kandinsky’s Painting with White Border deserves more than one visit to appreciate it, this past week I returned not once, but twice to hear Spotlight Tours on the painting by Brooke Rosenblatt and Karen Schneider. While both talks were captivating in themselves, what interested me most were the reactions from museum visitors, which I feel embodied Kandinsky’s intention perfectly.

As I listened to the responses of the groups, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu as the separate tours reacted almost identically. Continue reading