This exhibition presents works from the Kemper Museum’s Permanent Collection by American artist Frank Stella (b. 1936), inspired by Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. Connecting Chaos illustrates Stella’s groundbreaking methods for linking the chaotic ebb and flow of imagery in his mixed-media art practice.
In the decade-long series, The Waves, from the 1980s, and in the subsequent series Moby Dick, C-Relief, Stella conjured his own wildly abstract imagery to create sculpture, paintings, prints, and reliefs. He photographed wisps of smoke and scanned them multiple times to effect a linear element meandering throughout individual works and the series as a whole. This stylistic element connects the riot of shapes, lines, and colors that erupt from Stella’s mixed-media works and that expressively link to other series, including Imaginary Places (1993–95), in which his signature style brings fictional settings to life. In the way that an eloquent author’s chosen words illuminate a story, Stella’s layered printing techniques (lithography, etching, engraving, aquatint, screen printing, mezzotint, relief, collagraph, woodcut, and hot foil stamping) and sculptural forms elucidate the power of a narrative thread to join his works together.
Connecting Chaos features Ahab (1985–88) and The Great Heidelburgh Tun (1985–88) from the series The Waves, generous gifts of J. Peter and Barbara J. Gattermeir to the Kemper Museum Permanent Collection. This exhibition also gives viewers an opportunity to consider with a fresh perspective Stella’s The Prophet (D16, 2X) (1990) from the Moby Dick, C-Relief series, a work with iconic presence in the Museum atrium.