Marriage of Reason and Squalor, 1967
Lithograph, 15” x 21 3/4”
Gift of Lawrence Rubin
Frank Stella’s print Marriage of Reason and Squalor is part of Black Series I, a portfolio of 9 lithographs published by Gemini G.E.L. and based on earlier paintings with the same titles. The companion painting for this work, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II (1959) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NY.
Stella’s early work denies illusionistic space, emphasizing flatness and the materiality of the canvas or paper instead. The lines in these prints are done free hand in metallic gray-black ink; compared to his paintings, the lines are slightly clearer, making the geometric designs extremely dynamic. The image is presented in the lower left corner of the paper, associating the lines of the print with the paper itself and so emphasizing the materiality of the paper as object. The juxtaposition of the stark geometric lines with its off center location further creates a kind of optical illusion with its unsettling asymmetry and imbalance.
These widely recognized prints exemplify Stella’s early style. Inspired by Jasper Johns, the parallel lines and patterns present the entire painting to the viewer at once. Stella’s famous line, “What you see is what you see,” encapsulates his concept of painting as both image and object. Beginning in 1960 with his Aluminum Paintings and Copper Paintings, Stella started experimenting with shaped canvases and reflective surfaces, leading up to the vibrant sculptures and prints he creates today.
-Victoria Kung ’14, Curatorial Intern
Maya Lin is the latest artist to intervene on Brown’s campus, as part of the University’s public art collection. Her sculptural water table, which is being commissioned for the Building for Environmental Research and Teaching, consists of a oval slab of Chelmsford stone that will be etched with the topology of the Narragansett Bay. The work is being fabricated at the Riverside Stone Company in Seekonk. Check out these photos of the sculpture in progress.
Maya Lin inspects full scale foam model
A close up of the foam model
The Chelmsford stone slab waiting to be etched.
Untitled c. 1953
Mixed media box construction, 9 1/8” x 13” x 4 1/2”
Gift of Robert F. Ebin ’62 and family and David Winton Bell Gallery purchase
Joseph Cornell had a lifelong fascination with aviaries. His untitled box in the Bell Gallery’s collection is from the Dovecote series (begun in 1950), which takes its name from architecturally structured pigeon carriers with regularly placed recesses in which the birds nest.
Cornell is widely known for his fantastic box structures, in which he meticulously collected and arranged objects of interest into metaphorically resonant assemblages. He is often associated with the Surrealist, with whom he exhibited throughout the 1930s. However, unlike the Surrealists, Cornell was not particularly interested in the subconscious or the erotic. He was instead concerned with drawing out the physical and spiritual connections between people and the natural world. In his earlier aviary series Cornell collaged and assembled brightly colored birds into elaborately constructed cages, playing with the specific connotations of each bird to infuse the work with meaning — for example the owl as harbinger of death.
The dovecote series draws on a myriad of associations. In the middle ages, dovecotes were considered symbols of power. Whitewashed pigeon carriers became popular in New England in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cornell’s familiarity with this American variation is evident in his dovecote series, where he reduced his palate almost entirely to white and replaced printed and stuffed birds with white balls arranged in compositions of grids.
The strikingly monochromatic Untitled reflects Cornell’s growing interest in geometric abstraction and the gridded paintings of Piet Mondrian, in specific. The box was produced using an exceptional economy of means, even for this minimal series. The grid is merely suggested, collaged to the interior walls of the box, leaving an expanse of open space that is barely interrupted by thin crossbars along the upper and lower edges of the box. This sense of airiness contrasts with the reality of the Dovecote as a cage, while the egg-like orbs reduce the birds to their “formal and metaphoric essentials.”
–Alexis Lowry Murray
 Hartigan, Lynda Roscoe. Joseph Cornell: Navigating the Imagination. London: Peabody Essex Museum, 2007.
“Brown had a key role in returning stolen artworks after the war ended. He argued against America taking German-owned art as war reparations, and recommended that works of art looted from other countries be brought back to their rightful owners as soon as possible.
Nicholas Brown believes that was his father’s most important contribution as a Monuments Man.”
-ANDY SMITH, Providence Journal Staff Writer
Happy Valentine’s Day! Someone pinned a heart on Paul Ramirez Jonas’s The Commons this Valentine’s Day. The 250th Alumni Anniversary Exhibition, Part 1, opens tomorrow. Come see the horse, Dawn Clements’s drawings, and Kerry Tribe’s video There Will Be ________!
Berenice Abbott, Magnetic Field, 1982
Gelatin silver print, 18 1/2 x 23 1/4″
David Winton Bell Gallery | Gift of Michael B. Targoff
Berenice Abbott, 1982
This photograph of tiny metal shards oriented and energized by magnetic fields demonstrates Berenice Abbott’s interests in photography and science. While many of her scientific images are based on an extended exposure with strobe lights flashing on an object as it moves through space and time, this photograph catches a single moment. Even though the image depicts a static point in time, the curving trails of metal arranged by a magnetic pull give a riotous sense of movement and dynamism. By pinpointing naturally occurring geometric patterns and rhythms created by scientific processes, Abbott demonstrates her understanding of the aesthetic value of composition.
While Abbott is more famous for her work documenting New York City, she is widely regarded for the decades she spent documenting scientific phenomena in high-contrast, graphically vibrant photographs. Her goal was to explore and illustrate the beneficial qualities of studying science through art. “There is an essential unity between photography, science’s child, and science, the parent.” After years of producing thousands of photographs on her own, she was hired in 1958 at the age of sixty to continue her research for MIT’s Physical Science Study Committee.
This photograph, along with the thirty others from this series in the Bell Gallery collection, is a timely resource considering the active and ambitious STEM to STEAM efforts on Brown and RISD campuses.
Get a closer look at the rich texture of the metal shavings here. Learn more about STEAM research and events here.
-Liz Crawford, Curatorial Assistant
 STEAM is a movement begun by RISD that advocates for collaboration in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Math.
Installing Paul Ramirez Jonas's "The Commons" in the Lobby of the Bell Gallery on Tuesday, February 11. Part 1 of the 250th Anniversary Alumni Exhibition opens Saturday, February 15!