Born in Malden, USA, 1936
Frank Stella is an American painter, printmaker and sculptor whose work in minimalism and post-painterly abstraction has had a profound influence on visual art since the 1960s. His geometric paintings are objects which refer to nothing outside themselves: in Stella’s own words “what you see is what you see”.
Working in sequential series, Stella elaborated his formal developments starting with Black Paintings, followed by Aluminium Paintings, Copper Paintings, Concentric Squares, Mitered Mazes, Irregular Polygons and Protractor Paintings. These hyper-flat works undermined illusionistic space through variations in the shape of the ‘canvas’ and ascetic colour schemes. Stella’s pared-down aesthetic quickly received serious attention.
In 1959, at the age of 23, he joined Leo Castelli’s gallery, and a year later his work entered the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. At the age of 34, Stella became the youngest artist to have a full-scale retrospective at MoMA, in 1970.
His later work has evolved into three-dimensional space and shed its minimalist look for a Baroque exuberance of form and colour. Stella studied art history and painting at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and continued his studies at Princeton University, where he graduated in 1958 with a B.A. degree in history.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Stella’s work was included in a number of significant exhibitions that proved to define the art of the time, Geometric Abstraction (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1962), Toward a New Abstraction (The Jewish Museum, New York 1963), The Shaped Canvas (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1964-65), Systemic Painting (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1966), XXXII Venice Biennale (1966), Documenta 4 (1968), New York Painting and Sculpture 1940-70 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970), and Structure of Color (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1971).
His first retrospective exhibition, in 1970, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, was followed by another in 1987. Other major solo exhibitions include: ICA Gallery, London (1985), The National Museum of Art, Osaka (1988), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (1995), Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2000). The artist has received many awards: the New York City Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture (1981), the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1989), and the National Medal of the Arts (US) in 2009.
Frank Stella lives and works in New York City.