50 Years of Abstract Art by Frank Stella: 50’s & 60’s

The American Minimalist Painter, Print-maker and Sculptor Frank Stella will be 73 this Spring, and he still seems to be full of life.

“I don’t like to say
I have given my life to art.
I prefer to say
art has given me my life.”
artist Frank Stella once said.

Frank Stella was born in 1936 in Malden, Massachusetts. He has been a well-known artist for about 50 years now, and he’s been admired for his contributions to minimalism, post-painterly abstraction, patterns and offset lithography. Over those 50 years, Stella’s art evolved. And rather than a minimalist, he’s a maximalist who is producing monumental sculptures.

He has been learning, evolving, growing.

The Black Paintings – Early Abstraction by Frank Stella

In 1958, Stella moved to New York upon graduation from Princeton University. At Princeton, he had painted and earned a bachelor of arts in history. He was a fast riser and it only took one year of working in New York before Frank Stella was discovered there at the young age of 23. Well-known and influential New York gallery owner Leo Castelli offered him a solo show.

Frank Stella paintings
West Broadway, 1958
Frank Stella

This actually came right after MoMA’s curator Dorothy Miller had included Stella’s paintings along with the works of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, and others in the museum’s groundbreaking “Sixteen Americans” show in 1959.

With those two arrows on his bow, the newly celebrated young artist, Frank Stella, could stop painting houses after that. Instead, he could dedicate his time to making art in his lower Manhattan studio.

Frank Stella Abstract Art
Your Lips Are Blue, 1958
Frank Stella

What Caused Frank Stella’s Early Fame?

Frank thanks his early success to his landmark works called the ‘Black Paintings’ series, which he painted in ’58-’60. These paintings were deceptively simple and just featured pattern of black paint stripes with raw canvas in between them. A militaristic geometric symmetry: simple but revolutionary.

Frank Stella abstract art
Seward Park, 1958
Frank Stella

Frank Stella’s art exerted a profound influence on the art world of the ’60s. He made way for a whole new movement of Abstraction to come alive, pushing the prior movement of Abstract Expressionism to one side with one fell swoop. At the same time, Stella’s decorative pattern painted in abstraction also challenged the traditions of decorative artistry.

Throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s, Frank Stella emphasized control and rationalism in his art. There are several series and phases that mark the development in his work.

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Frank Stella, 1967

Early 60’s: Frank Stella’s Alu & Copper Art

In 1960 Stella developed the ‘Aluminum’-series, and he started his ‘Copper’-series. Both series consist of metallic stripe paintings on canvases whose shapes resulted from the serial progression of the featured stripes or the overall composition of the artwork.

Mid 60’s: Frank Stella’s Polygons & Protractor Paintings

The next step came in the mid 60’s, when his work underwent quite major artistic shifts. Stella created his ‘Irregular Polygons’-series in ’65-’67. Irregular Polygons were canvases in the shapes of irregular geometric forms. With them, moved beyond his prior black and typified his new works with large, unbroken fields of color. He also started painting very large-sized artworks, and his art started to express his affinity with architecture in their monumentality.

The sequel to this article is now published: 50 years of abstract art by Frank Stella: late’ 60s-’80s

© copyright 2009 – A. Lee, eArtfair.com – all rights reserved


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