Fine Artists: Frank Stella American Painter 1936-

"Kastura" artwork sculpture by Frank StellaFrank Stella is an American painter and printmaker. Frank Stella is a significant figure in Minimalism and post-painterly abstraction. Printmaker and painter Frank Stella was born on May 12, 1936 in Malden, Massachusetts. Frank Stella attended high school in Massachusetts and, upon graduating, moved on to Princeton University and majored in history. Stella soon found himself influenced by figures the likes of Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock while in school, and visits to the art galleries of New York subtly shaped Stella’s techniques.

Early visits to New York art galleries would prove to be an influence upon his artistic development. Stella moved to New York in 1958 after his graduation. Frank Stella is one of the most well-regarded postwar American painters who still works today.

Frank Stella has reinvented himself in consecutive bodies of work over the course of his five-decade career. Upon moving to New York City, Frank Stella reacted against the expressive use of paint by most painters of the abstract expressionist movement, instead finding himself drawn towards the "flatter" surfaces of Barnett Newman's work and the "target" paintings of Jasper Johns. Frank Stella began to produce works which emphasized the picture-as-object, rather than the picture as a representation of something, be it something in the physical world, or something in the artist's emotional world.

Frank Stella married Barbara Rose, later a well-known art critic, in 1961. Around this time Frank Stella said that a picture was "a flat surface with paint on it - nothing more". This was a departure from the technique of creating a painting by first making a sketch. Many of the works are created by simply using the path of the brush stroke, very often using common house paint.  Frank  Stella’s work attained recognition for its uniqueness and level of skill as early as 1959, when he hadn’t even reached the age of 25.

Frank Stella Painting "Number 886"By 1960 Frank Stella was reproducing paintings with aluminum and copper paint. Frank Stella had a fine sense for geometry and many of his early paintings used straight or curved lines, often in arcs, to excess. By the mid-1960’s Stella found himself branching off in to a new medium, that of print making.

Frank Stella began working with printer Kenneth Tyler and soon produced his first set of abstract prints, utilizing screen printing, etching and lithography, among other mediums. By 1970 Frank Stella received a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, the youngest artist to ever receive such an honor.
Many of Frank Stella's prints incorporated several different techniques to create one unique effect. It was inevitable, then, that in 1973 Frank Stella had a print shop installed into his home in New York. Frank Stella's massive wall relief "Kastura" (shown above) is constructed from sections of brightly painted aluminum which have been fixed to a rectangular base. Stella has skillfully balanced the monumental quality of the work with the apparent freedom of it's support, offered by a discreet curved grille structure which permits the spectator to see through to the wall behind.

The three dimensional abstract cut-outs challenge the traditional confines of the picture plane as their freedom of construction permits no defined edges. The artwork shows a number of influences. One of these is Minimalism, demonstrated in the use of mass made material and the industrial method of enlarging a scale model which was hand-made by the artist. Another influence is that of Abstract Expressionism, evident in the freely applied paint. Stella's wide range of work includes highly innovative prints, some of which are monumental in size.

Frank Stella modern Sculpture artwork "The Pequod meets the Bachelor"From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, Frank Stella created a large body of work "The Pequod meets the Bachelor" (shown here) that responded in a general way to Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. During this time, the increasingly deep relief of  painting  gave way to full three-dimensionality, with sculptural forms derived from cones, pillars, French curves, waves, and decorative architectural elements.

To create these works, Frank Stella used collages or scaled models that were then enlarged and re-created with the aid of assistants, industrial metal cutters, and digital technologies. The mid 1980’s onwards saw Stella working in three dimensions with increasing frequency, and by the 1990’s Frank Stella had moved on to creating free-standing sculptures for display in public places, and developing architectural projects.

In 1993, for example, Frank Stella created the entire decorative scheme for Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, which includes a 10,000-square-foot mural. Frank Stella's aluminum bandshell, inspired by a folding hat from Brazil, was built in downtown Miami in 2001and a monumental Stella sculpture was installed outside the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Stella is still an active artist in New York, and he works not only to protect his own work but that of fellow artists. Most recently he attacked the proposed U.S. Orphan Works law which, if passed, would remove copyright infringement penalties if the creator of a work cannot be found.
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Frank Stella
Merica  painter who created Frank Stella's aluminum bandshell, "Kastura", "Number 886"