Frank Stella and Thomas Scheibitz at Sprüth Magers Los Angeles
Frank Stella “Recent Work”
Few artists are as synonymous with the history of 20th and 21st-century American art as Frank Stella. His work across media, from painting to sculpture to printmaking, has continuously broken ground at each stage of his decades-long career, remaining influential and relevant to subsequent generations of contemporary artists. Sprüth Magers is honored to present the first solo exhibition of Frank Stella’s painting and sculpture in Los Angeles since 1995. The selection of works highlights the artist’s ongoing experimentation with spatial representation and includes the début of a new painting series.
In its broad array of forms, colors, and scale, Stella’s recent work offers viewers an equally remarkable and confounding visual experience. Planes intersect, cutting through each other as if in virtual space, while metal frameworks balance brightly painted, sinuous shapes whose appearance shifts radically when viewed from different perspectives. Since the 1990s, the artist has worked with computer renderings of complex forms, piecing together compositions from recurring motifs inspired by smoke rings, a spiral-coiled hat, stars, and other visual phenomena. Though Stella conceives of all his works in relation to painting, they often extend into three dimensions and are inspired by various disciplines, including literature, philosophy, and music.
At the center of the gallery, The Broken Jug. A Comedy [D#3] (left handed version) (2007) takes its title from the celebrated German Romanticist writer and theorist, Heinrich von Kleist, whose texts Stella has engaged with for twenty years. Ribbons of wood weave in and out of each other in graceful arcs, flowing dynamically over viewers as they walk around the piece. Three additional sculptures illustrate the artist’s diverse approaches to the star form, which has figured prominently in his work since 2014. Stella’s stars at times appear weightless, dissolving into bands of stainless steel; elsewhere, their mass is tangible and echoes the weighty reality of celestial bodies. Summer Star (Net) (2015), moreover, exhibits the process of rapid prototyping (RPT) that the artist has used for many years to develop intricate arrangements of vibrantly colored plastics and metals.
Several examples from Stella’s Scarlatti K series, which he first began in 2006, expand upon his varied use of RPT. The series is named for the 18th-century composer Domenico Scarlatti, the creator of 555 inventive piano sonatas, and the scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick, who later catalogued them chronologically giving each one a “K” number. Rather than attempting a literal translation of Scarlatti’s compositions, Stella’s series instead evokes the “sense of rhythm and movement that you get in music,” as the artist has explained. In K.404 (2013), for example, a spray of yellow needle-like protrusions suggests staccato notes and an upbeat tempo, and metal parabolas trace meandering melodic lines.
On view for the first time, Stella’s recent paintings mark the artist’s return to the canvas, albeit with compositions that relate directly to his three-dimensional investigations. Each one features a painstakingly rendered, undulating form that hovers in space, casting painted shadows onto the picture plane below. With the look of architectural plans, computerized models, and diagrams, the figures seem to defy gravity, as if designed for some otherworldly location or enigmatic purpose. Sensuous and inviting, these new works offer insight into Stella’s long-standing conception of painting as a multidimensional, multidisciplinary enterprise.
at Sprüth Magers Los Angeles
until 26 October 2018
Thomas Scheibitz “The Hunter in the Snow”
Over the last two decades, Thomas Scheibitz has developed a distinct visual vocabulary that moves seamlessly between figuration and abstraction. Informed by the systems and codes that structure both the world and our understanding of it, his paintings and sculptures present complexly layered, tectonic spaces in which forms and figures hang in careful balance with one another. Sprüth Magers is pleased to present the German artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles since 2001, featuring a selection of recent works that display the breadth of subjects, references, and visual tropes which circulate within the artist’s wide-ranging practice.
Scheibitz turns to 16th and 17th-century European art in the exhibition’s title, a play on The Hunters in the Snow, one of Breughel’s best-known genre paintings. Just as Breughel’s characters function allegorically as representations of his society at a particular moment, the layered figures that Scheibitz weaves together similarly suggest the visual patterns that construct our daily life. The artist works from a large personal archive of images — including photographs, prints, magazine clippings, and diagrams — from which he selects motifs to develop an iconography all his own. His forms hover at the border of universality and invention: they look familiar, but also strange and new. The notion of “hunting” is a nod to the restless movements of these images as they seek their final state, as well as to the concept of chasing down one’s dream in the star-struck city of Los Angeles. In one sense, Scheibitz becomes the hunter amidst the “snow” of our contemporary, image-obsessed world.
In Vergleich (2015), which is the German word for “comparison” and “compromise,” several cleanly delineated shapes float in and amongst each other through fields of gradated colors. Reminiscent of everyday things, such as flowers, droplets, and gently curling pieces of paper, these ambiguous forms are grounded by two stark black-and-white columns. The curled paper appears again in Allegorische Figur(2015), where it functions, perhaps, as the nose of a totemic mask. Both paintings offer a virtual catalogue of painterly gestures, including brushy passages, flat planes of color, methodical spray-painted lines, and quickly rendered striations, all of which are characteristic of Scheibitz’s eclectic and steady-handed approach to mark-making.
Though he approaches the blank canvas with a clear concept and design, as the layers build up and a composition begins to emerge, those ideas shift to make room for unexpected moves. Fama (2017) might at first seem to be a minimalist rendering of the letter E or an ampersand; looking closely, however, straightforward lines reveal themselves to be palimpsests recording multiple marks and erasures. Here too a black-and-white framework glues the composition together, and it creates what looks like a niche, as if the symbol’s curving features were a figurative sculpture. Fama, in fact, is the Roman goddess of fame, renown, and rumor — subjects that take on new overtones in the context of Los Angeles.
Though Scheibitz’s work, in its compositional structures and color relationships, is in close dialogue with the entwined histories of representational and abstract painting, the artist regularly looks to literature, film, and other areas of culture for his content and conceptual approach. Portrait N.W. Peaslee (2018) is named for the narrator of H.P. Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow Out of Time (1936), which traces the experiences of a politics professor whose body is possessed by a time-traveling alien species. The yellow polygon that cuts across the character’s face splinters the figurative illusion, suggesting a psychological break as well as the breakdown of pictorial space. Likewise, the title of his work A.I.D.A. (2018) conjures both Verdi’s celebrated opera and the AIDA model in advertising, which strategically turns viewers into consumers. This work is representative of Scheibitz’s large-scale, stage-like canvases, in which forms drift within an undefined space that recalls a theater. Stairs lead the viewer into the painting’s depths, maybe to immerse or entrap them.
Scheibitz’s sculptures translate many of his painterly concerns into three dimensions. The works in this exhibition relate to the automobile, a machine associated with the highways of Los Angeles, but also the tracks of Formula 1 racing. The artist has long been fascinated with the sport, particularly the shapes and engineering that allow for its intense velocities, pressures, and distinctive sounds. Here, Scheibitz presents car-like objects whose planes and materials are carefully crafted, while also displaying idiosyncrasies that reveal an underlying humor found throughout his multilayered work.
at Sprüth Magers Los Angeles
until 26 October 2018