Frank Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1936. After studying painting at Phillips Academy in Andover and then at Princeton, he settled in New York, where his black and pinstripe paintings of 1959, with their insistence on the flatness and the materiality of the painting surface, not only challenged the pictorially purist expressionism that had dominated American abstract art during the 1950s but established him, at 23 years of age, as an innovative champion of minimalism. But in what would become a signature quality of his creativity over the next five decades—the relentless desire to redirect his artistic energy and reconfigure his compositional style in pioneering and iconoclastic ways that would expand the boundaries of pictorial space—he abandoned the flatness and sober geometry of his early work to create color metal reliefs that brought illusionism and three-dimensionality, and eventually sculptural and architectural elements, into abstract art. Working not so much on discrete, individual paintings as on several series of multiple paintings (taking the form, in some cases, of sixty-eight different variations on a given plastic theme)—the Irregular Polygons series, the Protractor series, the Exotic Birds series, the Polish Village series, the Circuits series, the Cones and Pillars series—Mr. Stella devoted himself to what he has described as “expand[ing] the sense of a painting’s space, both literally and imaginatively.”
Mr. Stella’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad. He was the youngest artist ever to have a career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (1970). The Museum devoted another retrospective to him in 1987, and the Kawamura Museum of Art in Japan organized a large exhibition in 1991. He has also created architectural designs for museum projects in Europe; the Metropolitan Museum devoted an exhibition to these designs in 2007. In 1983 Mr. Stella delivered the Charles Eliot Norton lectures, entitled Working Space, at Harvard. He has received honorary degrees from Princeton and Dartmouth and has been the recipient of several awards and prizes. In 1976 he designed the exterior of one of BMW’s racing cars: a black and white graph-paper pattern that decorated a 3.0 CSL model that competed at Le Mans, France. Mr. Stella’s Montgomery Fellowship coincided with an exhibition of his Irregular Polygons (1965-1966) at Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art.
Last Updated: 3/14/11