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Frank Stella

Ctesiphon I

1968

Ctesiphon I is from Frank Stella’s Protractor series, a group of paintings individually named for ancient circular-plan towns in Asia Minor. The artist, who had recently traveled to Iran, cited Persian decorative art and architecture as the series’ inspiration: “The trip was a very big experience for me….There’s all that interlacing, or interweaving….Things doubling back on themselves like snakes swallowing their tails.” In Ctesiphon I, a whole circle tumbles into two interconnected halves in the curves breaking and reforming around the interruptions of successive shapes. The painting’s engaging kineticism reflects Stella’s own creative process—once he had applied tape to control the edges, he painted works without interruption, rarely stopping to redo a color.

Frank Stella (b. 1936, Malden, Massachusetts; lives and works in New York)
Ctesiphon I, 1968
Polymer and fluorescent polymer paint on canvas
120 x 240 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Jacqueline and Irving Blum in memory of Sayde Moss

My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object. Any painting is an object and anyone who gets involved enough in this finally has to face up to the objectness of whatever it is he’s doing. He is making a thing. —Frank Stella