Frank Stella: Shape As Form

A journey through the American maestro’s modern hybrids

Frank Stella’s Irregular Polygon paintings marked his departure from the trademark stripes that made his name, and remain some of the pieces he’s most proud of because, he has said, they were “without precedent”. From September 10, Paul Kasmin Gallery celebrates Stella’s merging of painting and sculpture with a month-longexhibition, Shape As Form (from $750,000-$3m) – which takes its name from the title of a 1966 Artforum essay by Michael Fried. Considering the Irregular Polygon paintings, Fried wrote of “the very closeness of their relation to advanced sculpture”.

His bright geometric works, such as Felsztyn II (1971, second picture) and La Scienza della Fiacca (1984, first picture), use mixed media (magnesium, aluminium, fibreglass, fabric) layered with acrylic or polymer on canvas to construct 3D effects and give an impression of abstraction and depth. One of abstract art’s big goals was to move away from the notion that paintings contain an illusion of something else; a painting should be only itself. Continuing this mission, Stella used colour and collage to challenge the eye’s perception of perspective, resulting in constructions that play with assumptions about shape, dimension and, most of all, depth. His later reliefs (third picture), also in this exhibition, push ideas of what defines a painting further, drawing out lines and shapes in metal and fibreglass – without using paint – on the gallery wall.


Stella has been intensely prolific for half a century: Shape As Form draws a path through his vast back-catalogue by selecting a single piece from nine of his key seriesa succinct overview of his evolution as an artist exploring the boundaries of painting in a modern age.

Later this year the Whitney Museum of American Art will show a comprehensive exhibition of Stella’s life’s work from October 30-February 2016; 120 pieces made between the 1950s and today will be shown, in what will be the first career retrospective devoted to a living artist at the Whitney’s new downtown home. For a concise and shoppable preview, Shape As Form is just the thing.


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