Frank Stella, Jasper’s Dilemma, 1962
Michael Auping: Jasper's Dilemma refers to something that Jasper Johns said. And that is, "The more I work with color, the more I start to see gray."
Narrator: Michael Auping.
Michael Auping: And in Jasper's Dilemma, you see two squares butted next to each other, one of colored concentric bands and one of black, white, and gray concentric bands.
It's a reference to the fact that color is―well, as Ad Reinhardt said, "color is irrational." And I think Frank believes that. He sometimes likes the irrationality of color, along with its aggression. So to see something like Harran across from Jasper's Dilemma is to understand how Frank uses color, not as a nuanced thing creating small, gentle stages of space but how he uses color as an aggressive and illusionistic thing that bounces backwards and forwards.
And so what happens is color begins to fight against color. You really do, when you look at these pictures and you really stare at them, in a funny way, you do begin to see gray. It doesn't just confuse your eye. It disrupts how you see color. It isn't as though he's trying to balance a soft yellow with a bright red. It's more like he is using color in a combative way.