The Whale As a Dish

6. The Whale As a Dish, artist: Frank Stella, 1989

[ Previous Image ] [ Next Image ]

The Whale As a Dish

One of thirteen prints that Stella began in 1985 inspired by Hermann Melville's Moby Dick.

Description by Kim Allen-Kattus: This work continues the powerful paradox that characterizes the work of Frank Stella. I see Melville's Moby Dick as a complex metaphor for good versus evil, as well as for man versus nature, and even God-with the whale representing, simultaneously, nature, God, and martyr. The title of Stella's work, The Whale As a Dish, immediately recalls the sacrament of the Eucharist. The dominant circular form and reinforces this sacred association. We recognize honey as a miraculous food, comparable to the Manna from God. In legend and myth, honey is ubiquitous in its associations with divine nourishment. Stella's day-glow orange, yellow, and pink pigment which we associate with the banal,especially graffiti and handbills, is the most immediate transgression of this sacred theme. Stella continues his contradictions in the formal details. The circle which forms the basis for the composition establishes borders; Stella disrupts these borders with his pictorial elements that penetrate and erupt over the edges. Hand drawn, softly modulated organic forms collide and intersect with rawly applied bright unmodulated colors, both of which contrast with pictorial elements rendered in the style of hard-edge illustration.

Description by Robert K. Wallace: Melville's "The Whale As a Dish" is meditation on the chapter in which Stubb has taken his "supper" from "the tapering extremity" of a sperm whale he has just killed. Ishmael finds it "outlandish" that "a man should eat a newly murdered thing of the sea, and eat it too by its own light." Yet, Ishmael confesses his own pleasure in tasting such "fragmentary parts of the whale's flesh" as "plum pudding" and "slobgollian." Beneath the honeycomb grid of a Chinese lattice design, Stella presents us with raw, tactile textures suggestive of the consumable parts of the whale, at once repellant to the mind and pleasing to the eye.

[ Previous Image ] [ Next Image ]

Steely Library phone number:  859.572.5457