Frank Stella: Scarlatti Kirkpatrick

Organized by Irene Shum

Scarlatti Kirkpatrick (2006-present) is a series of recent works by the renowned American abstract artist Frank Stella. The series represents Stella’s current and latest body of work.

The series title refers both to the Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), known for his many harpsichord sonatas, and to the Yale musicologist and harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-84), who popularized Scarlatti’s work and produced the definitive catalogue of the sonatas in 1953. Stella’s constructions, like the sonatas, are each assigned “K” numbers (for example, K.179) but their relationship to Scarlatti’s music is one of visual rhythm and abstraction more than literal correspondence. “If you follow an edge of a given work visually,” says Stella, “and follow it through quickly, you find the sense of rhythm and movement that you get in music.”

The series’ spiraling, polychrome works form a bold new chapter in Stella’s decades-long career exploring artistic reinvention and technical innovation, and are unlike any work he has created before.

Philip Johnson was an early admirer of Stella, and he avidly collected the artist’s work throughout his life. When Johnson donated the Glass House property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, he specifically outlined his wish to feature Stella’s artwork at the Glass House. Visitors to the Scarlatti Kirkpatrick exhibit found a rich context in which they can see the trajectory of the artist’s career, as earlier Stella works from Johnson’s personal collection now hang in the Glass House’s Painting Gallery.

Frank Stella: Scarlatti Kirkpatrick (2006-present) was presented in Da Monsta on The Glass House property. Johnson intended for the building to serve as an on-site visitor center where guests would gather to view small exhibitions and film before touring the grounds. Initially designed by Stella and completed by Johnson in 1995, Da Monsta was the last structure built on the New Canaan site. The building concluded what Johnson called his “50-year diary,” documenting the history of 20th-century architectural currents across the 49-acre campus.