Frank Stella Mural at the Boston Seaport

Frank Stella’s Damascus Gate mural was unveiled in the Boston seaport a few months ago.

Stella grew up in Malden, Massachusetts, just north of Boston. He will turn 84 in May. The mural is one of the largest public art installations of his more than 60-year career. The 98-foot-long, 18-foot-tall mural was commissioned by the developers of the revitalized Boston seaport.

The mural is based on Stella’s 1970 Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I), part of the Protractor Series that he began to work on in the late 1960s. Stella used bright, fluorescent colors, angles and curves for the Protractor Series and named them after ancient sites in Asia Minor, a departure from the stark, black paintings that had earned him early recognition.

Stella continued working with variations of the technique that he began with the Protractor Series, experimenting with colors, shaped canvasses and a variety of materials.

Frank Stella’s Works Coming to Tampa

When Frank Stella traveled to Israel in the 1980s he visited the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where he saw the works of Russian graphic artist, El Lissitzky. Stella was inspired by the illustrations that Lissitzky did, between 1917 and 1919, for the children’s book Had Gadya. 

Had Gadya, or One Goat is an allegorical song, traditionally sung at the close of the Passover Seder.

Stella created twelve prints, based on the song, in a style very different from Lissitzky’s.

Although Stella was born into family of Italian origin and is not Jewish, he has used Jewish themes in his work, like his Jewish Polish Village Series which depicted destroyed wooden synagogues in Eastern Europe.

Frank Stella: Illustrations After El Lissitzky’s Had Gadya will be on view at the Tampa Museum of Art from April 2 through August 2, 2020 and will be shown concurrently with an exhibit of Stella’s works from the Tampa Museum’s permanent collection and other regional collections.

No More Eating on the Frank Stella Painting

Isfahan lll, one of the largest of his Protractor Series paintings is getting a makeover in Chile.

The painting was donated, by Stella, to the Museum of Solidarity (Museo de la Solidaridad) in 1972, when the museum opened, at a time when Chile was celebrating the regime of Salvador Allende’s new socialist government.

Other artists from around the world donated work, including Pablo Picasso, Robert Motherwell, Sol Lewitt and Joaquin Torres Garcia.

After a military coup in 1973, that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, the museum’s collection was dispersed to different locations.

Stella’s painting, which is more than 10 feet high and 21 feet wide, was rolled up and stored in different locations that belonged to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC) in Santiago.

The canvas was so large, that workers, who weren’t familiar with Stella’s work, used it as a table on which they ate their lunch.

In 1991, when democratic rule was restored, the museum reopened as reopened under its current name, the Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum.

After years of being rolled up, and the original stretcher missing, Isfahan lll was badly in need of repair.

Last year, the Getty Foundation, through its Conserving Canvas initiative, funded a project to restore the painting. A new spring-loaded stretcher was built and Stella helped the members of the conservation team restore the texture and color of the work.

Isfahan lll is scheduled to be completed in June.

References:
Katherine McGrath. Frank Stella Reconnects to His Hometown Roots With an Installation at the Boston Seaport. Architectural Digest. January 29, 2020.
artnet Gallery Network. An Iconic Frank Stella Painting Gets a New Lease on Life as a 98-Foot-Long Mural in Boston’s Seaport. artnetnews. November 5, 2019.
Hakim Bishara. The Little-Known Story of a Frank Stella Work Once Mistaken for a Lunch Table. Hyperallergic. February 14, 2020.