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The Materials of Minimalism

Explore how Minimalists embraced the techniques and materials of manufacturing and industry.


The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II

Frank Stella
(American, born 1936)

1959. Enamel on canvas, 7' 6 3/4" x 11' 3/4" (230.5 x 337.2 cm)

Stella used commercial black enamel paint and a house painter’s brush to make The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II. The thick black bands are the same width as the paintbrush he used. The thin white lines are not painted; they are gaps between the black bands in which the raw canvas is visible. Stella painted the black bands parallel to each other, and to the canvas’s edges, rejecting expressive brushstrokes in favor of an overall structure that recognized the canvas as both a flat surface and a three-dimensional object.

Stella identified his materials and process with those of a factory laborer. About his manner of painting, Stella famously said, “My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there… What you see is what you see.” Instead of painting something recognizable, Stella’s painting is about the act of painting, and its result.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent.

An element or substance out of which something can be made or composed.

A long mark or stroke.

A type of paint made from very fine pigments and resin that form a glossy surface. Also, the application of this paint to a material in order to create a smooth and glossy surface.