from the Black Series II 1967
Painter, sculptor, printmaker and architect, Frank Stella was born in 1936, in Malden, Massachusetts. In his early twenties, Stella became a revered American artist. He studied history & painting at Princeton University and just after graduation he moved to New York and created his 'Black Paintings'. These were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in 1960 in an exhibition that also showcased Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. This exhibition is said to have kicked off the 'Minimalist' movement of the 1960s.
Stella rebelled against the abstract expressionist movement and the work of artists such as Jackson Pollock and became more interested in the flat surfaced works of Barnett Newman and the target paintings of Jasper Johns.
The Black Paintings took these influences further, creating layers of black rectangular stripes, seperated by thin lines of unpainted canvas. With titles such as Die Fahne Hoch! (The Banner High), named after a Nazi marching song, and The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, these works were seen as a direct attack on the abstract expressionists who came before him. (1)
In 1960, you could by a Black Painting for $75. Now they sell for over 5 million dollars.
Art dealer, Leo Castelli, included Stella in his stable of artists in 1959, when he was only 23. From 1960 he began to produce paintings in aluminum and copper paint which used regular lines of color separated by pinstripes, yet moved into using irregular schaped canvases in geometric forms. These later evolved into more complex forms, with his Irregular Polygons and Protractor paintings.
Frank Stella, INDIAN BIRD SERIES: Shoubeegi, 1978
Throughout the 70s, Stella continued to reinvent himself, departing from Minimalism, resulting in works such as the Exotic Birds series , that are painterly metal reliefs in which he combined honeycomb aluminum with expressionistically worked ground glass surfaces. Often regarded as sculptures, Stella claimed these works to be 'paintings'; which he called “maximalist” painting for its sculptural qualities.
In the Polish Village series (1970–73), Stella took titles and shapes from the wooden synagogues destroyed by the Nazis. Stella utilised wood and other materials to create high relief; strongly reminiscent of Constructivist composition and the work of Kandinsky (3). In a sense these works become 'engineered' and sturctured in the building up of the pictoirial plane. Later he began to use aluminum as the primary support for his paintings.
From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Stella created a large body of work that responded to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, continuing his exploration of volumetric space. Stella created 266 works, at least one for each of the 135 chapters of Herman Melville's great novel. During this time, the increasingly deep & denser relief of Stella’s paintings gave way to full three-dimensionality, with sculptural forms derived from cones, pillars, French curves, waves, and decorative architectural elements. To create these works, the artist used collages or maquettes that were then enlarged and re-created with the aid of assistants, industrial metal cutters, and digital technologies.
As a sculptor, he has made massive metal pieces that are located in public places all over the world. In 1995 he completed the monumental lyrical group of sculpture called "The Hudson River Valley Series." One of his largest outdoor sculptures was commissioned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. This piece, completed and installed in 2001, called Prince Frederick of Homburg (30 ½ feet tall and spans 47 feet at its widest) stands to the north of the IM Pei building facing the Capitol.
As an architect, he has completed extensive scenographic decorations for the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto and designed proposals for museums in Gronigen, Dresden and Buenas Aires (4).
Stella became the one of the few artists to be featured in two major retrospectives at The Museum of Modern Art: one in 1970 and one in 1987.
In 1983 he was appointed the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University; a year later, his lectures, titled "Working Space", were published in English, French and Japanese. In 1979 he was awarded the Claude M. Fuess Distinguished Service Award from Phillips Academy. He was the recipient of the Skowhegan award for Painting and the New York City Mayor's Award for Arts and Culture in 1981 and the Award of American Art from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1985. He has received honorary degrees from Princeton University, Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, Dartmouth College and Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany. He received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government in 1989. In 1992 he was awarded the Barnard Medal of Distinction. He was presented with the Gold Medal for Graphic Art award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998. In 2001 he received the Gold Medal of the National Arts Club in New York.
1. The prince of whales, by Johnathan Jones,
The Guardian, Thursday 5 April 2001
3. Frank Stella, 1970-1987 By William Stanley Rubin, Frank Stella, Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)p36
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