Frank Stella

Frank Stella

There’s a great, lucid profile of the great Frank Stella in this morning’s New York Times: the photograph of him standing with his work in the background says it all. I’ve been working since May on a large still life, another in the series of tabletops, and it depicts, as an earlier one did, a Frank Stella catalog from MoMA, published for a retrospective many years ago. The cover of the book has been difficult to paint, especially the sans serif typeface of Stella’s name, which I’ve done over three times in an attempt to get it right. I may have to settle for “right enough”. We had a few friends here for dinner last night, from our previous neighborhood, and one of them was looking at the nearly-done painting and asked, “Who’s Frank Stella?” I sent him this profile from today’s Arts & Leisure section, about the upcoming Stella show at the Whitney. Without ever saying it in so many words, it conveys, at least for me, that most of Stella’s work has been, if not actually a visualization of joy, at least a reliable source of it. Some of my favorite passages from the piece:

Mr. Stella has done more than any other living artist to carry abstract art, the house style of modernism, into the postmodern era. Yet his passion for form, for contemplating weight and balance, has made him an outlier in an age of nutty auction prices and art that adopts the global economy as its very subject. By his own admission, Mr. Stella does not keep up with the current scene. “In all honesty,” he said, “I never got beyond Julian Schnabel and that generation. He was the ’80s, right?”

What does he think of Jeff Koons, whose shiny balloon dogs and other pop trophies made up the most recent retrospective at the Whitney? “You know what I always thought he was like? The Franklin Mint. He’s from Pennsylvania, and he outdid them. He outshone them! It’s for very wealthy people with no taste.”

Mr. Stella does confess to admiring at least one mid-career artist, Kara Walker, whose monumental sculpture of a sphinx-like deity was displayed to great acclaim in a former sugar factory in Brooklyn last year. “I saw it on YouTube,” he said. “I thought it was interesting.”

And, at the end:

Mr. Stella could have been talking about himself when he told me, “De Kooning was once asked how he felt about celestial space” — the heavens, the stars, and all that. “He said he was only interested in the space he could reach with his hands.”

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