In 'Effingham 1' Frank Stella joins a red and a yellow polygon together with a blue band. This band of colour borders part of the red polygon and then follows round the yellow field. Where the blue band meets itself again the different parts remain divided by a thin line of unpainted canvas, and a similar edge of white can be seen between the different colours. The blue band ends in a sharp corner at the bottom of the yellow field. The painting is in the shape of an irregular polygon.
At the start of his career as a painter, Stella was influenced by Abstract Expressionism. However, he rejected the atmosphere which characterizes many abstract expressionist works, particularly because of the spatial quality this suggests. Stella wished to exclude every form of illusion. He looked for a way of making a painting look completely flat. For him the solution was to work with rigid shapes, and plain colours in such a way that there is no figure and background. Between 1958 and 1960 he achieved this by constructing symmetrical compositions with parallel bands with the same width. He painted these bands in a geometric pattern to fill the space. After 1960 he solved the question of the figure and the background by removing the remaining forms from the canvas, resulting in so-called shaped canvases. Stella’s work can be described by the term Post-painterly Abstraction.
'Effingham 1' is one of the “Irregular Polygon Series”, also known as the “Eccentric Polygon Series”. The eleven paintings in this series each have a different shape and each shape is executed in four different colour combinations. The titles are derived from the towns in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In this series, Stella uses two or three different geometric forms as a starting point, which he wholly or partly edges with an 8-inch wide band of a contrasting colour. By edging the shapes in this way, he avoids the illusion of overlapping. The thin lines of unpainted canvas keep the colours separated and avoid the effect of retreating or advancing. The sharp corners and shapes which appear to have been cut off, prevent the viewer from seeing the fields as things. Because of the thickness of the frame and its special outline, the painting acquires the character of an object.