Your Art Weekend: Frank Stella at the Whitney – Sugarlift

Your Art Weekend: Frank Stella at the Whitney

Posted by Bartlomiej Piela /

©2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Whitney.

by Alex Allenchey

 

Even in today’s climate of “Artists to Watch” lists and emerging artists’ skyrocketing secondary market prices, Frank Stella’s rise to art world stardom was nothing short of meteoric. Shortly out of his collegiate career at Princeton, the young painter’s dark and formally repetitive paintings were included in a group show at MoMA alongside luminaries like Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg. But rather than burning out, Stella fueled his continued ascent by pivoting away from Minimalism and introducing maximal elements into his work; more shapes, more colors, more materials.

© 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Whitney. Photograph by Ronald Amstutz.

Empress of India, 1965. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

These initial departures resulted in an incredibly diverse artistic output, each different strain of which is on display here, albeit not chronologically. As you wander through the exhibition you’ll encounter everything from monumental paintings to collaged reliefs and explosive sculptures, along with accompanying photographs and drawing studies. Stella’s numerous experimental series detail how he evolved as an artist, following initial formal principles to their logical ends—metallic grids become protractor-inspired swoops that in turn project off the wall with spirals of aluminum, made with the help of the latest computer software.

© 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Whitney. Photograph by Ronald Amstutz.

 

Though the show at large can feel overwhelming, both in appearance and scope, as Stella’s often imposing works compete for your attention, it’s worth noting his especially wonky titles, which draw from subjects like music, geography, and literature. As his work blazes a drastically different trail from its austere artistic beginnings, the titles aim to anchor the art in the tangibility of real life. As an artist who’s lived through, and even helped spark so many art historical shifts in the past half century, Stella continues to comment on the medium of painting, even while expanding that definition through his own creations.

Jasper's Dilemma, 1962. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Left: Gobba, zoppa e collotorto, 1985; Right: Chodorow II, 1971. © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times.

 

 It’s amazing to observe such a singular artistic force still going strong at 79, and while it’d be easy to end a description of this exhibition with Stella’s now famous tautological explanation of Minimalism, “what you see is what you see,” considering the show’s immense breadth and diversity, what you see is an ongoing experiment in abstraction, and what you get is nothing short of a feast for the eyes.

   

WHAT TO DO AFTER
While we’re huge fans of Danny Meyer here at Sugarlift and can’t recommend Untitled, his restaurant in the ground floor of the Whitney more highly, should you be on the hunt for something a little more low key post-Stella’s visual fireworks, try grabbing a drink at the West Village’s Fat Cat. This subterranean bar is a perfect place to grab a beer, play games, and maybe even listen to some live jazz.

 

 


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