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Action and Spatial Engagement: A Conversation with Frank Stella
by Klaus Ottmann

Frank Stella, who is honored this year with the International Sculpture Center’s 2011 Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, will always be best remembered for his radical Black Paintings (1958–60), which consist of symmetrical bands of black paint separated by narrow interstices of unpainted canvas. When they were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art’s pivotal “16 Americans” (1959–60), they enraged many a critic. Almost absurdly reductive and non-relational, the Black Paintings have been credited by Irving Sandler with single-handedly dealing the death blow to American gesture painting. Today, they are universally considered seminal works of 20th-century American art.

Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspiel, 3X, 2001.
Stainless steel, aluminum, carbon fiber, and paint on fiberglass, 31 x 39 x 34 ft.

Photo: Steven Sloman, © Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY



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