Artwork Details

Frank Stella

b. 1936

Swan Engraving Square III
Etching on handmade paper
55 1/4 x 57 3/4 inches
Not on view
Accession Number
Gift of Mary Jean Waddell
Image Copyright
© Frank Stella

About the Artwork

In the early 1980s, Frank Stella was working on a series of relief paintings (the Circuits series) composed of layers of laser cut sheet metal. While working with these cut metal sheets and their scraps, Stella was struck by the layered network of lines and curved shapes they created. He realized that the metal remnants of these relief paintings could be rolled with ink and used to make prints. 

The Swan Engraving prints were made by collaging the scraps along with other metal sheets, including doily patterns, together on a plywood backing, then inking and printing them on large sheets of paper. Because the surface of the plates was multilayered and uneven, they produce an embossed effect on the paper. The name of the series comes from the Swan Engraving Company in Connecticut where Stella had the sheet metal shapes cut. 

The first nine works of the series, including GRAM’s Swan Engraving Square III, are printed exclusively in black ink. The absence of color draws focus to the pattern and texture of the print, allowing the viewer to get lost in its baroque swirls.