50 Years of Abstract Art by Frank Stella: Late 60’s – ’80s

Abstract artist Frank Stella – the middle years of his career

This article follows the article on Stella, the Minimalist’s early fame, and Frank Stella, the artist his is today, will be published later today. There were several phases to his ‘middle’ years, that bridge that transformation within his career.

Late ’60/Early ’70s: Stella Introduces Curves

Frank Stella Harran II 1967

The introduction of curves into his works marks the beginning of Frank Stella’s ‘Protractor’-series (’67-’71). His colorful series with decorative patterns on geometric-shaped canvases are now hailed as exemplary of post-war and Minimalist art. A well-known artwork that typifies this series is ‘Harran II’ (1967) which can be found in the Guggenheim museum in New York.

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Frank Stella, 1967

Mid-’60 Onwards: Frank Stella, the Printmaker

During his career, Frank Stella has been an innovative print-maker, and his work had a strong impact upon printmaking as an art. He has produced abstract prints in lithography, screen printing, etching and offset lithography (a technique he introduced).

Frank Stella started printmaking in the mid-’60s. In 1967 he accepted master printer Kenneth Tyler’s invitation to make prints at the Gemini G.E.L. workshop in Los Angeles. Today, of Stella’s 250+ print projects to date, 60% has been made in partnership with Tyler. Prints offered Stella the chance to rework certain concepts. This feature was a hook that kept him interested in the medium for decades.

The ’70s: Frank Stella goes Maximalist and Sculptural

Stella’s work re-morphs in the ’70s. First, Stella introduced relief into his art, and his paintings are now called “maximalist” for their sculptural qualities. Second, his work is becoming more multi-media/collage. This started with his large Polish Village collage-reliefs that he made in ’71-73. Next he began to work with aluminium as the primary support for his paintings. He made two abstract series this way: the ‘Exotic birds’-series in ’76-’80 and the ‘Indian birds’- series in ’78-’79. Frank Stella’s travels to India, but also to Canada, Europe, Brazil, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and Russia have obviously been one of his sources of inspiration.

The ’80s: Stella is Becoming a 3D artist

The ’80s is a period of many progressive series for Frank Stella: Circuit (’80-’82), Shards, South African Mines (’82-’83), Malta, Cones & Pillars, Moby Dick…. Over the series, Frank Stella’s works become more of a color-explosion, more high-energy, more improvisational, and more 3D (featuring deep relief in his paintings).

An example of Frank Stella’s Circuit Series – Early Sculptural Paintings

Frank Stella Circuit Series Diepholz II ~  Photo: Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

Photo: Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas

One work in Stella’s Circuit series is Diepholz II, 1982, which is currently in the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas and is part of the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, which they started over 50 years ago.

This mixed media piece is on aluminum and fiberglass, and is about 2.5 by 3 m. The Diepholz II is over half a meter deep (61 cm), and through the work Frank Stella is exploring a dynamic relationships with the wall and surrounding space.

The Circuits are named after and inspired by world cities that hold Grand Prix (and other) car races.The looping, serpentine linear elements do indeed evoke the curves, speed, and intricacy of winding racetracks.

Stella planned 24 works in the series, each with a model and four enlargements (measuring one-and-a-quarter, three, four-and-three-quarter, and five times the size of the model), but only twenty-two were constructed.

In the Circuit series, he adopts an open, free-form approach. In the overall Circuit series, the structures extend farther outward and a wider range of shapes is used. Stella broadens his range of surface materials, and adds magnesium and fiberglass to the prior aluminum.

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