TOLEDO MUSEUM ACQUIRES 2 FRANK STELLA PIECES

Abstract art enhances ‘visual literacy’

6/28/2013
BY ROSE RUSSELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Elijah Young, 15, of South Toledo, left, and Savannah Shelton, 17, of Sylvania take a look at La penna di hu, by  Frank Stella, at the Toledo Museum of Art Thursday. It is one of the works by Stella the museum recently acquired. They complement a painting already on display.
Elijah Young, 15, of South Toledo, left, and Savannah Shelton, 17, of Sylvania take a look at La penna di hu, by Frank Stella, at the Toledo Museum of Art Thursday. It is one of the works by Stella the museum recently acquired. They complement a painting already on display.

The Toledo Museum of Art has acquired two works by Frank Stella that a museum official said are intended to help visitors understand abstract art and expand the museum’s mission to teach “visual literacy.”

Stella’s Conway I shows irregular polygons in five colors including hot red and silvery-white on canvas. The painting, named for a New Hampshire town, was a part of the artist’s Irregular Polygons series from 1966. The piece was displayed at the museum during its 2010-11 exhibition Frank Stella: Irregular Polygons, 1965-66. It is now in the main gallery.

The other new Stella piece in the TMA collection is a mixed media piece of interacting shapes in a series of warm and cool colors. La penna di hu, the name of the piece, or The Peacock Feather, is named for an Italian folktale. Though Stella is an American, the piece recalls his Sicilian ancestry. The three-dimensional relief sculpture, which hangs on the wall and protrudes out, is in the Wolfe Gallery for Contemporary Art in the museum’s east wing.

Why these two pieces?

“The museum has owned for a number of years another painting by Stella, called Lac Laronge [IV] from 1969,” said Amy Gilman, associate director of the museum. It is also in the main gallery.

“These two works we felt were great complements to the work we already own,” she said.

Ms. Gilman, who also is curator of modern and contemporary works, said the three Stella pieces will play a significant role in the museum’s effort to teach “visual literacy,” the concept of helping people learn how to view art, and their “life, work, and other things.”

David Buchette, 17, inspects the museum’s newly acquired ‘Conway I’ by Frank Stella.
David Buchette, 17, inspects the museum’s newly acquired ‘Conway I’ by Frank Stella.

We all visually take in our surroundings, “but how many things do we really see?” she asked.

“If we can help you look more closely, take more things in, see more detail, understand complexity of shape and volume, then perhaps you will be able to understand that in other parts of your life, whether [you’re] a police officer, surgeon. All of us have to look closely at the things we do,” she said.

“Visual literacy is a concept and is something we are focusing on at the museum. We want you to be able to have visual literacy in the same way we have textual literacy,” Ms. Gilman said. Classes are being developed at the museum to help others “see better and to help you understand our role better.”

The museum did not reveal how much the works of art cost or their value.

Mr. Stella, 77, is celebrated for his work in minimalism and abstraction over his long career. He lives in New York and in 2009 was given the National Medal of the Arts by President Obama.

Contact Rose Russell at: rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.