Frank Stella

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In 1959, at a landmark art exhibition held in New York at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), a young 23 year old fresh out of Princeton University was included as one of the 16 Americans to showcase their work. Despite 15 others featured, it was Frank Stella who was the undisputed star of that exhibition. Stella showed just four paintings in that exhibition but those four were enough to signal to the world that Stella had arrived. Those four paintings were the very definition of abstract art; just stiff lines of black stripes and that was it. Apart from painting, Stella is also well versed in sculptures, print making and architecture.

Frank Phillip Stella was born in 1936 in Malden, Massachusetts, into a family of Italian immigrants. He inherited his love of art from his mother who was into landscape painting. Stella attended Princeton University and studied art there, during his time at Princeton he made numerous trips to New York and was fascinated by the art work there. To this day Stella resides in New York; the city has become an important part of his life both personally and professionally. Stella’s abstract paintings really shook the art world; they bore no psychological references, or illusions or hidden meanings of any kind. They are simply just art, according to Stella with his paintings it is ‘what one see’s is what one gets’. Art for Stella is a very straightforward thing, not one to be meddled in with deciphers or hidden agendas. There is a strong hint of minimalism associated with his work as an artist as well. At the beginning Stella worked predominantly with black and after a few years ventured off into exploring new colors. Another aspect of his work which stands out is his use of sharp angles, something Stella became obsessed with later on in his years. His canvas shapes varied from diagonal to irregular to completely twisted at some points. This is very evident in Stella’s Grajau I – a stellar painting with bright colors. Set against a backdrop of pink the painting comprises of five different objects stacked against each other all in different colors. It’s almost as if the painting is an aerial view of something. The painting is Stella at his best,  despite peaking at a young age Stella continued to evolve not only as an artist but ventured into different territories of art including architecture and sculpting. His sculpture of Brazilian Birds is a mash up of steel and aluminium pieces all aligned together. Stella’s sculpture Memantra, which are different bended rods of a metal – almost in the shape of a globe – can be found at the art roof garden of MoMA in New York.

In 2009, Stella was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama – a high honor for artists in America. One thing which was very rare about him was that he didn’t believe in the concept of the royal treatment artists get, neither did he like the idea of making money through art. For him both aspects disturbed the balance of life as an artist. He maintained that even famous artists struggle to make ends meet in the art world, despite selling paintings for millions of worth of dollars. He associated the art world with a pyramid with many artists struggling at the bottom and very few at the top. He was against the idea of the focus being only at the top of the pyramid.

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