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Frank Stella: Wall Sculptures Inspired by Archaeological Sites in Ancient Anatolia
Frank Stella, Can Hassan II. Cast and painted aluminum and steel, 1999.

EAST HAMPTON, NY.- The works in Vered's exhibition, Frank Stella: Fully Volumetric Reliefs, are boldly entwined with lived experience and Stella's interests in archeology and architecture. These sculptures, from Stella's reflections on key archeological sites in ancient Anatolia, are energetic metal wall constructions made of industrial materials. One of the greatest artists of his generation, only he and Jasper Johns have had 2 retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Stella's instantly acclaimed 1958 Minimalist paintings, contrasted sharply with the era's Abstract Expressionist, emotional canvases.

Stella was an early advocate of making non-representational paintings, rather than artwork that alluded to underlying meanings, emotions or narratives. He wanted his audiences to appreciate color, shape and structure alone and then he proceeded to challenge the very notion of a painting by declaring his flat canvases, structured reliefs, metal protrusions and freestanding sculptures all to be paintings, saying, "Abstract paintings must be as real as those created by the 16th century Italians."

Born in Malden Massachusetts, Stella came of age as a painter during the Abstract Expressionist era. It was Stella's personal style of non-representational painting which separated him immediately from that era's signature, bold gestural brushstrokes. Stella painted flat, smooth works that led the art world in another direction, towards Minimalism. Characteristic of Frank Stella are his changing styles and subjects within the bounds of abstraction. He has more range than any other well-known late 20th-century artist. In his constant explorations, he has been described as going from "minimalist" to "maximalist."

He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts where he studied with Patrick Morgan and Princeton University, where he was a student of William Seitz and Stephen Greene. His Princeton professors introduced Stella the New York art world by bringing him to exhibitions in the city. Exposed in this way to the art of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman and Jasper Johns, it was the work of John's particularly that inspired him. John's geometric paintings of Flags and targets inspired Stella's work during his Princeton years.

In 1958, he moved to New York where his innovative work, which utilized a monochromatic palette and flat surfaces, signaled a break from the thick, textural paint and gestural compositions of the Abstract Expressionists. It drew massive attention from the art world almost immediately. For his first major works, the stark "Black Paintings" (1958-1960), Stella covered canvases with black house paint, leaving unpainted pinstripes in repetitive, parallel patterns. At only 23 years old, he gained instant recognition for these intensely focused paintings. The MoMA included four in its 1959-1960 Sixteen Americans exhibition and purchased one for the permanent collection. That same year he joined the Leo Castelli Gallery. Castelli was a key promoter of his work as well as that of other radical modernists during the 1960s.

Stella did his signature Black Series and in the 1970s, Aluminum Series with shaped canvases and bright, fluorescent colors, a reaction against his earlier sombre works. In 1970 at the age of thirty three, he was given his first retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and that same year he began his three-dimensional relief paintings.

In 1970, Stella was the youngest artist to become the subject of a retrospective at MoMA. He enjoyed a second MOMA retrospective in 1987. It was following this 1987 retrospective exhibit that Stella reinvented himself once again, and began incorporating collage and relief into his ‘paintings' - an extension of the layered bands of color in his previous works. Stella's ‘paintings' exploded off the canvas, but for Frank Stella, all his works - though they came to appear to be sculptures, remained paintings.

In the Polish Village series (1970-1973), he attached paper, felt and wood to canvas. Building on this trajectory, the later Indian Birds series (1977-1979) featured an assemblage of painted aluminum forms protruding from the wall. This growing focus on three-dimensionality and dynamic textures sharply contrasted the flat, smooth work that had first brought Stella into the public eye. He continued pushing the idea further, creating sculptural works marked by elaborate tangles of curves, spirals and loops, which were more representative of a Baroque style than his initial Minimalism. Yet, even these highly sculptural works are still "paintings" in Stella's eyes.

Stella claimed, "A sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood up somewhere."

In 1980s and 1990s, Stella expanded his three-dimensional paintings into increasingly explosive, vividly colored and multifaceted pieces, while still continuing to create innovative prints. His series based on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick includes works of all types, from metal reliefs, to giant sculptures, to mixed-media prints combining diverse techniques such as woodblock printing, etching and hand-coloring. After moving towards freestanding bronze and steel sculptures, Stella's work then grew to include architectural structures, reflecting his comment, "It's hard not to think about architecture when you've gone from painting to relief to sculpture." These works include an aluminum band shell in Miami (1999) and a monumental sculpture, Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, 3X (1998-2001), on the lawn of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (1998-2001). Currently living and working in New York, Stella continues to create large-scale sculptures, as well as designs for potential architectural projects.

While many thought Stella's earliest paintings were a rejection of Abstract Expressionism, Stella never viewed them as such, and his admiration for the movement's dynamism and tactility was realized in his later, more ‘Baroque' works.

In addition to painting, Frank Stella has also done some set design work for avant-garde dancer Merce Cunningham and for the revived musical "Pajama Game" in 1999. That same year, in Miami, Florida, he completed his first architectural project which is the band shell for the new arena on the bay front. The object in the shape of a spiral-cut beach hat is 34- feet tall.
The Metropolitan Museum of art May 1, - October 28, 2007 held two simultaneous Frank Stella exhibitions: Frank Stella: Painting into Architecture, and Frank Stella on the Roof, marking the artist's first solo exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

Artists and architects such as Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Sol Lewitt and Dan Flavin acknowledge a debt to Stella's work.

Frank Stella's work is published in over 220 books and is represented and over 120 museum collections worldwide.

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August 14, 2011

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