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Comprehensive retrospective of Frank Stella's work on view at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Frank Stella, Lo sciocco senza paura, 1987. Mixed media and painted etched magnesium on aluminum, 266.7 x 215.3 x 163.2 cm. Sammlung Froehlich, Stuttgart. Photo: Marek Kruszewski© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.

WOLFSBURG.- Frank Stella (born 1936) is one of the last living heroes of American painting from the 1950s and 1960s, the time when American art found its way to its own identity, reaching its historic zenith in the process. The hardly twenty-year old artist conquered the New York art scene in the late 1950s with a sensation: His large Black Paintings not only intensified the discussion of Minimalism in painting, but also prepared the way for the “exit from the picture into space.” But to the great surprise of the art critics, the passionate racecar driver did not follow the crowd avant-garde artists heading almost inevitably in the direction of Minimal Art. Stella pioneered a completely different path that led him to ever more opulent, ever more baroque reliefs. With this idiosyncratic turn “from Minimalism to Maximalist,” Frank Stella developed into one of the most distinctive artists of the 20th century. The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is now dedicating a comprehensive retrospective this artist, the most extensive in more than 15 years, encompassing circa 63 mostly large-format works and 82 works on paper. The exhibition forms the keystone for the varied international presentations honoring to the artist on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

With its large exhibition hall, the Kunstmuseum is providing the artist, who is undertaking the staging of his works himself, and his in part gigantic, extremely colorful paintings and metal reliefs the ideal opportunity to fully unfold. It supports the representation of his work’s development over a half century, tracing the artist’s successive efforts to conquer space up to an including his visionary and most recent works and anticipating in the process basic elements of fractal and digital aesthetics. Archisculptures and architectural models make up the conclusion of the exhibition.

The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg places Stella’s oeuvre for the first time in a larger art historical context that extends far beyond modernism. The exhibition is not only concern with a depiction of his oeuvre in its entirety but also with its grounding in history and its function as a bride builder to the 21st century. This also includes the question concerning the role of the ornament and the future of abstraction.

This is the link to the parallel exhibition Ornament. Perspectives on Modernism. Ornamental Prints from Dürer to Piranesi. The uninterrupted currency of the ornament in contemporary art becomes particularly evident in this look back at pre-modernism. With its historically reflected, painterly concept, Frank Stella provides the opportunity to comprehend abstraction in a much larger context. The question may well be asked whether the history of abstraction in fact merges with that of the ornament in Frank Stella’s oeuvre.

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