A Frank Stella retrospective is the perfect venue to see the progression of Stella’s work over the past fifty-plus years.

The Whitney held a Stella retrospective in 2015 and now the Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts is exhibiting a retrospective of Stella prints. The exhibit runs through the end of July, and would be a great place to visit for anyone traveling around the Boston area.

The Black Series

By exploring the relationship between the flat plane of a canvas and the basics elements of artwork and sculpture – color, shape and composition – Frank Stella created his Black Paintings. The paints were done on large canvasses, using house paint and a large brush. Stella painted black stripes in various configurations, separated by thin lines, on unpainted canvas.

What Stella said that he admired about the Old Masters, was their technique, “the way they moved paint” on the canvas. Stella defined his work, and by extension, all panting on canvas, as “a flat surface with paint on it – nothing more”.

In 1959 the Black Paintings were exhibited at MoMA’s Sixteen Americans show. Besides being acquired by the museum, Stella became a pioneer of the Minimalist art movement…at age 23.

He continued to work on the Black Series, making a succession of prints that varied in pattern but had similarities in structure. The series of prints, as well as over 140 other works, including eight major paintings, are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Exploring Color and Shape

What followed for Stella was an exploration of how the canvas, color and shapes could be used in his artwork. He used the print medium to create texture, shape and give dimension to his work. Stella created canvasses that not only included recurring shapes, but shaped the canvasses themselves and worked within their confines.

He was soon “extending the works to where they wanted to go,” he said, by adding sculptural elements to his paintings. Many of Stella’s works art both painterly artwork and sculpture.

In 1970, Stella was still exploring spatial relationships in black and white, with work like Black Stack. In the 1973 work, Jasper’s Dilemma, Stella was paying homage to Jasper Johns, an artist he much admired, and who said that the more he worked in color, the more he saw gray. The 1962 painting, Jasper’s Dilemma, explored the idea of the juxtaposition of colors and boundaries and Stella continued to be fascinated by the relationship between color and form.

Still expanding his options with color, Stella combined several techniques in his Imaginary Places series, to create varying surface qualities in print.

Expanding the Surface of Artwork and Sculpture

Stella’s artwork took a natural progression from flat canvas, to shaped canvas, to textural print and then to sculpture. Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, 3X, Stella’s ten-ton, 2001, 31 x 39 x 34 foot sculpture, made of stainless steel, aluminum, painted fiberglass and carbon fiber, was placed outside the National Gallery of Art.

Frank Stella at VFA

Please contact us if you would like more information about Black Stack, Jasper’s Dilemma, Calvinia (Axsom 227) from Imaginary Places or any of the other work of Frank Stella available in our gallery.

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