"We believe that we can find the end, and that a painting can be finished. The Abstract Expressionists always felt the painting's being finished was very problematical. We'd more readily say that our paintings were finished and say, well, it's either a failure or it's not, instead of saying, well, maybe it's not really finished."
- Frank Stella
In 1970, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, mounted a mid-career retrospective of his work. In the years after this exhibition, Stella moved away from his early Minimalist style toward increasingly extravagant and complex modes. One expression of this shift was his “maximalist” paintings, which were inspired by bas-relief sculpture. In these works, he extended the picture plane into the third dimension by adhering wooden shapes to the canvas and painting them in vibrant color patterns. These relief-style works got progressively deeper over the decades, and ultimately required metal rather than wood shapes and the aid of assistants to create.
Stella has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the National Medal of Arts, which was bestowed on him by Barack Obama in 2009. Today Stella continues to live and work in New York, and his work can be found in prestigious collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Kunstmuseum Basel, and the Tate Gallery, London.
One of the most influential American artists of the 20th century, Frank Stella has rigorously explored the formal imperatives of art, including line, color, and form. Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1936, and he attended the Phillips Academy preparatory school before going on to study history at Princeton University in New Jersey. While enrolled at Princeton, Stella frequented galleries and museums in New York, which inspired him to pursue art as a career.
In 1958, after graduation, Stella moved to New York, and within a year his work was gaining critical recognition and attention. In 1959, he was included in the important Sixteen Americansexhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and he joined the influential Leo Castelli Gallery. Completed between 1958 and 1960, Stella’s seminal “Black Paintings” series represented a notable departure from the emotive, often spontaneous, gestural strokes of the trending Abstract Expressionist style of the time. These works, achieved by the artist’s mechanical and repetitive systems of symmetrical patterns, comprised straightforward and severe black stripes on irregularly shaped canvases. Straddling the line between modernism and the emergent Minimalist movement, while experimenting with both real and perceived space,this seminal body of work created a pivotal moment in history of modern art. By the late 1960s Stella also incorporated printmaking into his practice, beginning a long collaboration with preeminent printer Kenneth Tyler at Gemini G.E.L.