The Epic Endeavor: Frank Stella’s Waves Series

Frank Stella- Waves Series- Moby-Dick- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico
Frank Stella by Christopher Felver, silver gelatin print

In 1986, Frank Stella embarked on an epic endeavor: adapting Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick into a body of work. He spent twelve years capturing the essence of the novel, resulting in four series with over 200 artworks that correspond with every twist and turn of the plot. The first series, The Waves, comprises thirteen vibrant, mixed-media prints that detail Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest. Behold four vibrant prints from the series, available individually or as a set. Each print is named for a chapter from the book, so we’ve provided chapter synopses below.

Frank Stella - The Waves Series - Ahab - Moby Dick - The Whale - Zane Bennett Gallery - Santa Fe

In Ahab, abstracted whale tails and a blood-red background
mark Ishmael’s first sighting of the doomed captain. 

Frank Stella
Ahab
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella - Hark! - The Waves Series - Moby Dick - Zane Bennett Gallery - Santa Fe

Hark! captures the quiet reverence the seamen have for
their captain—and the sounds of a calm ocean. 

Frank Stella
Hark!
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella - The Wave Series - A Squeeze of the Hand - Moby Dick - The Whale - Zane Bennett - Santa FeA Squeeze of the Hand offers a tour through the Pequod’s
“blubber-room,” hence the exuberant mish-mash of colors and forms.

Frank Stella
A Squeeze of the Hand
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella - The Pacific - The Wave Series - Moby Dick - Zane Bennett Gallery - Santa FeThe Pacific, with its fragmented vision of the titular whale
tinged in red, charts the Pequod’s passage into tumultuous waters.

Frank Stella
The Pacific
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Call Me Stella.

Frank Stella Portrait- Christopher Felver- Photography
Image: Frank Stella by Christopher Felver, silver gelatin print

The first thing you need to know about Frank Stella‘s (b.1936) Waves series is that the vibrant, mixed-media prints are monumental. Each of them measures at least 6 feet high and over 4 feet wide. The American artist employed a trifecta of printmaking techniques to create them: serigraphy, lithography and linocut. The prints are hand-colored and collaged, ensuring that each one is unique.

Stella created these marvels of post-painterly abstraction over a 12-year period, between 1985 and 1997. His epic endeavor seems quite fitting if you consider his source of inspiration. The Waves series is a tribute to Herman Melville’s seminal Great American Novel Moby-Dick. Stella imagines himself as a stowaway on the whaler ship Pequod, joining the narrator Ishmael to chronicle Captain Ahab’s tumultuous quest for revenge against the elusive white whale Moby Dick. Each print is an abstract summary for one of the book’s 135 chapters—an elemental, topsy turvy impression of life at sea. To hear Stella speak about the series, check out this excerpt from Studio 360’s Modern Icons podcast about Moby-Dick.

Stella was also influenced by abstract expressionism for this series. “This is paying my debt, or not so much paying my debt as expressing my admiration for the abstract generation I grew up with and that I admired the most,” he said of Waves.

Works from the Waves series have passed through the Zane Bennett Contemporary collection before, but this release is truly remarkable. We acquired the mint condition prints from a private collection—including several images that we’ve never had before. They all hail from the same pull, and are a low edition number. We’re offering special pricing and right of first refusal to collectors who are interested in purchasing all six as a set, so make sure to contact us quickly if you’d like to own a piece of artistic—and literary—history.

Frank Stella- The Great Heidelburgh Tun- Mixed Media Print- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico

Frank Stella
The Great Heidelburgh Tun
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella- The Pacific- Mixed Media Print- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico

Frank Stella
The Pacific
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella- Squid- Mixed Media Print- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico

Frank Stella
Squid
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella- Ahab- Mixed Media Print- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico

Frank Stella
Ahab
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella- Hark- Mixed Media Print- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico

Frank Stella
Hark!
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Frank Stella- A Squeeze of the Hand- Mixed Media Print- Zane Bennett Contemporary Art- Santa Fe New Mexico

Frank Stella
A Squeeze of the Hand
serigraph, lithograph, linocut, hand coloring, and collage
Year: 1988

Click here to browse the complete Zane Bennett Contemporary Art collection.