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Galerie Ficher Rohr Presents a Second Exhibition with Works by Frank Stella
Frank Stella, Ain Ghazal Variation, 1999, Near East series print, relief, and planographic with hand coloring, 64 3/4 x 49 1/2 inches sheet, 67 x 51 inches framed. AP 1, Edition of 8, 4 AP, WP, RTP, A, signed (Inv# FS99.001.AP1)

BASEL.- Galerie Ficher Rohr presents a second exhibition with works by Frank Stella. In so doing Galerie Ficher Rohr also honors Professor Franz-Joachim Verspohl, an outstanding connoisseur of Stella’s art, whose idea it was to bring together works from three decades. The concept of the show is to present and illuminate the development and the enduring courage of Frank Stella’s consistently innovative creativity.

It is rare indeed to encounter an artist who dares to set virtually no limits on his own creativity and is so boldly experimental.

The same artistic curiosity also consumed and inspired the gallery's friend Professor Franz- Joachim Verspohl. Both men – tirelessly giving their all with passion, prescience, and that immense humility, which is a hallmark of genius – decided early on to dedicate their lives to art. And the live has given me my life Frank Stella.

Since Professor Verspohl is no longer with us, Frank Stella himself selected the exhibits for this presentation of his work.

In deep affection the gallery pays their respects to the master – may his exemplary life and life’s work never be forgotten.

Stella created “Exotic Birds” in the mid 1970s, and the series was considered so important that a critic called it his “second career.” The series has not been shown together since the 1980s. The exhibition includes a “constructed” painting, "Mysterious Bird of Ulieta," measuring about eight feet long, of mixed media on honeycombed aluminum, and a suite of large prints based on paintings in the series.

Stella's recent projects have included enormous freestanding cast aluminum pieces and entire architectural environments. Stella’s “Heinrich von Kleist” series has been touring major European cities for nine months, and his 31-foot-high sculpture "Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, X3" was just unveiled in front of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

“Never one to rest on his laurels, Mr. Stella has pushed forward with a kind of relentless, maybe desperate ambition,” notes a New York Times review. “His career has been an endgame about painting whose main purpose is to demonstrate that the game is far from over...With each series, and especially since the onset of his aluminum reliefs, Mr. Stella has steadily become a better artist.”

“He’s probably the greatest practitioner working in abstract art, going back to the 1960s,” says Robert S. Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History, who profiled Stella in his book Masterworks.

Stella graduated Princeton University in 1958 and moved to New York, where he has been based ever since. He soon began using metallic paint on canvases that were geometrically shaped to coordinate with the designs on their surfaces. These visually forceful paintings were viewed as significantly altering the direction of the international art world. Stella used bright colors and more complex patterns for a series of concentric squares and mitered mazes in 1962-63. In 1967, his compositions became curvilinear with the creation of his Protractor Series.

Stella created paintings and constructions in 1971-73 that he named after Polish synagogues destroyed by the Nazis. The pieces suggest unattainable relationships between intersecting planes. In the latter part of the series, the works began to actually project from the wall, and while Stella spoke of these pieces in terms of investigations of "real" space, his spatial configurations had become extremely complicated and deliberately ambiguous, according to Mattison.

Also in this period, Stella etched and painted brightly patterned metal reliefs known as the Brazilian Series, Indian Birds works, and the Exotic Birds works, the latter of which are featured in the Lafayette exhibit. His art in subsequent years, which included metal reliefs with titles from Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales, confirmed his mastery of mixed-media abstract constructions.

In Stella's "Circuits" (1980-82), the spatial tension and complexity that he had courted in his earlier career reached an explosive climax, notes Mattison. The reliefs explored the limits of the artist's organizational abilities and the fringes of what the eye and mind can comprehend. The "Circuits" were individually named after automotive racetracks on the European Formula One circuit, and the constructions propose analogies between the swerving path of a race car seen at speed and the spectators' visual reflexes.

In 1983, Stella was named Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry by Harvard University, an honor previously bestowed on such artists as Igor Stravinsky, T.S. Eliot, Bernstein, Luciano Berio, and Calvino.

Stella's "Moby Dick" series (1986-89) featured a new configuration, the wave. Previously, the projecting forms in Stella's constructions had been largely planar -- the surfaces were flat and the designs confined to the edges, explains Mattison. By contrast, the waves are curved-space structures; they feature both curved edges and curved faces. While working on the "Moby Dick" series, Stella was reading James Gleick's Chaos: Making a New Science (1987), a book providing popular history of the seminal developments of chaos theory. Stella's interest in vortex dynamics and chaos theory as models for an ever-changing world led to his prints “Imaginary Places,” created in 1995-96.

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