Frank Stella is one of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Born in 1936, he grew up with abstraction. In 1950 Stella entered the Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, where he studied art history and painting, only to discover that he had no interest in figurative representation. In the period of late gestural and abstract expressionism he developed a constructivist way of painting with a strict, sometimes ascetic will to geometric form. In his so-called minimal paintings, lines, stripes, and colours still appeal to the emotions, albeit in a reduced, subdued way. Rather, through their intelligible constructivist patterns, those works remain orientated towards the beholder’s intellect.
Frank Stella renounced the commonplace rectangular format and shocked the art world with L-shaped paintings or irregular polygonal canvases, sometimes with centralized void. These “shaped canvases” spoke about the identity of the image and the picture’s carrier. There were not, as it were, any horizontal elements on a vertical canvas. In this period Stella denied any illusion of space or depth and asserted instead the flatness and object-quality of the canvas itself. He later indicated that his intention in these works was not to reject completely the lush brushwork of Abstract Expressionism, as often suggested, but rather to insist on the development of an overall surface through negating any illusion that visible brushstrokes or advancing and receding colours might imply. (1)
There is a painterly illusionism in Stella’s works from this period, albeit not one pandering to illusion. Although the linear elements could have been painstakingly precise, they are not. On the contrary, their edges are blurred and fuzzy, with brushstrokes invading, if only a little, the blank space between the elements they separate. This is a counterweight to clean constructivist abstraction, as it brings painting to life again and reveals the entire work as painted.
In the 1980’s, after having steadily probed the frontiers of representation, Stella created his first paintings and then moved on to reliefs made from different materials, brightly painted in a calligraphic way, but not at all constructively precise. From there on, it was but a small step to the monumental freestanding sculptures and wall reliefs, which rightly claim accentuating positions in the world of modern architecture. Latter works of the artist tie in with his sculptural objects and show, in fanciful reliefs on modelled plastic bases, a game of forms, hatchings and colourful pictorial elements, as well as large canvases with a multitude of single elements, often made from paper, sometimes moveable, affixed by staples.Stella has invented new methods of artistic representation at least half a dozen times and therefore counts among the most creative artists in history.(1) See www.moma.org/collection/artist.php, essay by Constance W. Glenn, From Grove Art Online, © 2009 Oxford University Press
Die Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie hat in den zurückliegenden Jahren zwei große Ausstellungen mit Werken von Frank Stella gezeigt: In den frühen Neunzigern eine Retrospektive mit Arbeiten aus fünf Jahrzehnten (auch als Solo-Show auf der Art Cologne), und - 2006/2007 - neue Arbeiten des Künstlers.
Frank Stella. The Kenneth Tyler Collection, till July 2017, The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (Aus)
POP, MINIMAL AND FIGURATIVE ART: THE FISHER COLLECTION, May 14, 2016 -, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (USA)
Frank Stella: A Retrospective, April 17, 2016 - Sep. 18, 2016, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (USA)
Frank Stella Prints: A Retrospective, Feb. 06, 2016 - May 22, 2016, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison (USA)
Phares, Feb. 14, 2014 - Feb. 15, 2016, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France
Frank Stella: A Retrospective, Oct. 30, 2015 - Feb. 07, 2016, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Frank Stella, Painting & Drawing, May 9, 2015 - August 30, 2015, Museum für Gegenwartskunst - Emanuel Hoffmann Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland
Love Story. Die Sammlung Anne und Wolfgang Titze, until Oct. 5, 2014, Winterpalais, Vienna, Austria
American Idols, until Oct. 13, 2013, Kunsthalle Weishaupt, Ulm
Skulpturen und Reliefs aus der Sammlung, July 14, 2012 - Feb. 10, 2013, Kunsthalle Weishaupt, Ulm
Frank Stella. Die Retrospektive, Werke 1958 - 2012, Sep. 8, 2012 - Jan. 20, 2013, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Frank Stella, Oct. 15, 2011 - Dec. 4. 2011, Altes Straßenbahndepot, Jena