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Frank Stella Collection

Frank StellaEE936-E‰is an artist who continued to overturn the artistic conventions of the day with bold new concepts, while progressing in style throughout his career by experimenting with new types pictorial spaces. The extensive collection of Stella works in the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art is one of the museum’s widely recognized strengths, as well as being one of its visual highlights.

Born in Malden, Massachusetts in the USA, Stella studied art at Princeton University. After graduating and moving to New York to continue his pursuit of art, Stella created the work Tomlinson Court Park (second version) at the age of 23. Using commercial enamel paints and flat brushes, he created paintings consisting purely of patterns of stripes at even intervals on large canvases. The abstract paintings of this period, in which Stella reduced the compositional elements to a minimum, represent one of the earliest forms of what would come to be known as Minimalist Art. What are we the viewers to find these reticent paintings executed in a single black that resists our efforts at interpretation and gives an impression of inscrutability? Stella’s own suggestion to people who would wonder what they should find in his paintings is, "What you see is what you see." In these words the artist is saying that the way to look at these paintings is to dispense with our habit of looking beyond the surface—as we do with TV or computer screen—for virtual realities that do not actually exist therein and, instead, to accept the painting simply for what it is and what we see in front of us.

Frank Stella,Tomlinson Court Park (second version), 1959, 213.4 x 276.9cm
© Frank Stella/ARS, New York/SPDA, Tokyo, 2007

The year after Stella painted his Tomlinson Court Park paintings, he abandoned the long-held painting convention of working on rectangular canvases. The painting Hiraqla III executed on a canvas shape resembling a pair of glasses is from Stella’s "Protractor Series" composed of semicircular units. Indeed, the radiating color sections of the semicircular forms are as if drawn according to the angle calibrations of a protractor. The shapes are the product of Stella’s attempt to achieve a complete unify between the image he wanted to paint and the shape of the canvas he painted it on. As such, his method was a complete reversal of the conventional process of beginning with the predetermined picture plane of a rectangular canvas and then painting an image within it. This is an expression of Stella’s belief that a painting is not a screen to reflect things but a physical object and entity in its own right. Meanwhile, unlike the monochrome Tomlinson Court Park, the multicolor composition including fluorescent colors the artist employs in Hiraqla III creates a pictorial space of vibrant dynamism that defies the limits of the 2-dmensional canvas.

Frank Stella, Hiraqla III, 1968, 304.8 x 609.6cm
© Frank Stella/ARS, New York/SPDA, Tokyo, 2007

As Stella’s artistic quest continued, he went beyond the painting canvas and applied color to a variety of new materials. From 1971 these new materials included cardboard and felt, and from 1975 he used sheet aluminum in works assembled from numerous parts in increasingly 3-dimensional form. In 1986, Stella began work on what would become his largest series: the Moby-Dick series that takes its titles from the Melville novel. These large works are assembled from parts cast of aluminum or magnesium. Among these, Merry Christmas 3X (third version) protrudes out more than 1.5 meters from the wall like a giant page from a pop-up picture book and enters our space with

Frank Stella,Merry Christmas, 3X (third version), 1987, 489.0 x 332.0 x 170.0cm
© Frank Stella/ARS, New York/SPDA, Tokyo, 2007

Other Works in the Collection

  • Frank Stella, Marquis de Portago (second version), 1960
  • Frank Stella, Flin Flon II, 1968
  • Frank Stella, Bechhofen III, 1972
  • Frank Stella, Lo Sciocco senza Paura, 3.8X, 1985
  • Frank Stella, The Sphynx, 1.875X, 1988
  • Frank Stella, The Mast-Head, 1990
  • Frank Stella, Sequoyah, 1991
  • Frank Stella, LunĂ©ville, 1994
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