Waddington Custot Galleries is pleased to present nineteen of Frank Stella's rarely-seen, unique colour variants based on his 1982-1984 print series Illustrations after El Lissitzky's Had Gadya. Created in 1985, these colour variants explore further hand-painted colour arrangements and printings using the remaining compositional plates and collage elements from the print edition. The selected works in this exhibition will show a complete group of Stella's Illustrations after El Lissitzky's Had Gadya alongside variations from within the series.
In 1919, Russian avant-garde artist El Lissitzky (1890-1941) created a series of gouaches illustrating the traditional Jewish Passover song, Had Gadya (The Only Kid). Having seen these gouaches in the Tel Aviv Museum in 1981, Stella was fascinated by the movement and vibrancy El Lissitzky had created whilst using simplified, graphic forms. On his return to New York, Stella produced his print series illustrating, as Lissitzky had done, each line of the song. Over the course of two years, Stella utilised multiple printing methods including lithography, linoleum block, silkscreen, and rubber relief with collage elements and hand-colouring to create a series of twelve prints which were published by Waddington Graphics, London, at the end of 1984.
After completing the edition, Stella created between two and nine variants of each of the twelve Had Gadya illustrations and the works in this exhibition are selected from these. Each continues the technically complex composition but is unique in the different combinations of vibrant colours and printings. The Had Gadya series is pivotal in Stella's work with the introduction of both the 'wave' motif, which inspired the seminal Moby-Dick series and his Cones and Pillars iconography.
This exhibition offers an alternate view of the entire Had Gadya series and, viewed side by side, it is possible to see Stella's varying levels of printing and experimentation with colour; tracking his thought processes and innovative, ambitious use of colour and form.