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Lévy Gorvy
2019.05.24 Fri - 2019.07.27 Sat
Opening Exhibition
Ground Floor, 2 Ice House Street Central, Hong Kong
Opening Hours

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American Master. Frank Stella: Polish Villages
Lévy Gorvy
[Press Release]

Hong Kong—Lévy Gorvy is pleased to announce American Master. Frank Stella: Polish Villages an exhibition of ten assemblages from Frank Stella’s seminal Polish Village series (1970–74) that together will comprise the American artist’s first exhibition in Greater China. Inspired by the 17th– 19th century wooden synagogues in eastern Poland that were destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, the series marks a critical point in the artist’s evolution: his first direct engagement with sculptural relief in his paintings. Opening on 24 May, the exhibition will span the entirety of Lévy Gorvy’s newly inaugurated space on the ground floor of the historic St. George’s Building in Central.

In the late 1950s, Stella emerged on the scene with his Minimalist “Black Paintings,” a reaction to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism that seemed to herald a new era in postwar art. Seeking to reject illusionism, Stella worked with symmetrical patterns, a restricted palette, and an impersonal application of paint, emphasizing both the flatness of the picture surface and the shape of the canvas itself to present an irreducible object. Working systematically in series, he developed a problem-solving approach to painting that, through variations in pigments and procedures, offered a progression of experimentation with the tension between painted surface and three-dimensional form.

Engaging with the logics of Cubism and Constructivism, Stella’s Polish Village assemblages began around 1970 and found the artist breaking the surface plane established in his previous series. As Stella proceeded, elements of the pictorial sphere began to emerge as sculptural, architectural reliefs that orient toward a diagonal axis. His Polish Village paintings were inspired by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka’s book Wooden Synagogues (Arkady, 1959), in which the book’s Jewish architecture experts compiled photographs and line drawings of seventy-one synagogues documented during an architectural survey in the 1920s and ’30s. Sharing affinities with the angular architectures and sophisticated carpentry of the synagogues, each of Stella’s compositions—named for the structures pictured in the Piechotkas’ book—appears in several versions that are materially and formally distinct. In Artforum in 2016, Stella described an underlying concept of the series: where modernism’s Constructivist line can be traced from Moscow to Berlin via Warsaw, the course of the Nazis, who ruined these sacred sites, mirrored that path in rever.

On view at Lévy Gorvy will be Olkienniki II (1972) and Rozdol I (1973), two large-scale painted works which reveal the diverse materials Stella employed in his foray into relief, including corrugated cardboard, felt, wood, and colored canvas. The Polish Village series emerged following the artist’s first retrospective, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in March of 1970, when Stella was just 34; he was the youngest artist to receive a full-scale retrospective in the institution’s history to that date. Stella felt ambivalent about the formal debates surrounding his exhibition in the midst of the turbulence of the Vietnam War, and the Polish Village works comprise his poignant response. Likewise, the series ushered in the “maximalist” period of formal experimentation that characterized Stella’s output throughout the ’70s and ’80s.20190520161938