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Frank Stella On Painting and Art

From the realm of high art, we’ll talk with the great American painter and abstract artist Frank Stella.

Frank Stella’s work
(Click an image to start slideshow)

The great American painter, print-maker and sculptor, Frank Stella’s work has gone the reverse of the great arc of American art.

American painters began with lush, majestic landscapes and moved slowly to the abstract. Frank Stella began with the most severe, minimalist abstract paintings and has slowly moved lush.

From flat triangles and squares to flamboyant explosions of color and form. The artist who revered Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns — and Caravaggio.

This hour On Point: a conversation with art great Frank Stella, on the edge of art.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guest:

Frank Stella, American painter, sculptor and more. For the last six decades, he has been one of this countries major Abstract painters and a major figure in the minimalist movement. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Obama in 2009. In 1970, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a retrospective of his work, making him the youngest artist ever so honored. He gave a series of Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1984. He has been influenced by the likes of Caravaggio, Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns, and in turn has been a major influence on the architects Frank Gehry and several generations of Abstract painters.

Several of the world’s greatest museums have collections of Stella’s:

More:

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  • Dalbinartist

     I’ve never heard of Stella referred to as an abstract impressionist…
    Minimalism and post-painterly abstraction perhaps…?

    • Tcavastani

      My reaction too. That’s a highly improper label.

    • Tcavastani

      My reaction too. That’s a highly improper label.

    • Commenter

      They said “abstract artist” not “abstract impressionist”

  • Ellen Dibble

    I watched the Colbert Report link up top to see if Stella has anything to say relating to the visual challenges in my current environment, which I consider more related to feng shui (see Feng Shui Art Gallery on the net; others have addressed this before).  Picking “career” (since my home is my office), I got the following, with a selection of feng-shui approved art, plenty of which are Eastern, but I think one was the Viennese “The Kiss” — not for office:  (I actually find a sculptural approach to visual environment is right — but I’ve got a 4-floor parking garage and a bunch of telephone pole whatever they are clinging to it, huge metal barrels likely to explode, saying good morning to me): Activate the North part of your home or office to enhance Career luck.Paintings of mountains are auspicious if placed behind a desk. They signify strength and a solid foundation. Do not use images of mountains that contain a lot of water or barren, craggy peaks.Paintings of water can be placed in front of a desk.Paintings of open fields with flowers symbolize unencumbered space in front of you.Paintings of fish can also bring good energy.

  • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

    This is great onPoint. Stella is a great choice to talk about the art world and his art in particular. I hope this is the beginning of more second hours with a focus on the visual arts.

  • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

    The Colbert piece is “priceless,” thanks for the link onPoint. Frank Stella was a good sport to play along with Colbert.

  • Ken Wilson

     
    When I was an American boy living in Holland in the late 60′s, my father used to take me to the Dutch Grand Prix in the seaside resort town of Zandvoort. Back in school during classes, I would draw and redraw the outline of the race track. Imagine my delight two decades later to come across that same shape in a Frank Stella piece at MoMA! I have loved Mr. Stella’s work ever since.

  • rusalka

    1/Do you believe that all artists (including songwriters, film makers and authors as well as visual artists) have the same motivations when they desire to communicate to people, or is there something special that a visual artist is trying to express that is different from any other creative form?
    2/ I am not sure I fully understand the theortical ideas behind it, but what do you think about the idea of “art for art’s sake?” Do you think that art must have a message? Does it bother you if art is an elitist activity?

  • Ellen Dibble

    Having checked all the museums linking to Stella’s work up top, MOMA, Whitney, Tate Modern, LA County Museum of Art, and National Gallery of Art, I find that I like (really, really like) ALL of the LACMA’s Stella pieces, and NONE of ANY of the other museums’ Stella pieces.
         Are the other museums ENCOURAGING Stella to go in what I consider the wrong direction?   How does that work?

    • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

      Ellen: LACMA had Stella work early on, they maybe cornered the market. I remember the breakthrough show they had: Art of the ’60s which included Stella and many other breakthrough artists at that time like Rauschenberg, Ed Kienholtz, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, and many more.

    • Ken Wilson

      Ellen, you might also enjoy these works to two Stell shows that ran simultaneously at the Met in 2007. I loved them both.  

  • Ellen Dibble

    Copied from the biographical comments at the bottom of the MOMA link up top:”Later regarded as transitional in both style and technique, the Polish Village variations, as a whole, prepared the way for more than a decade of increasingly assertive and often wildly eccentric reliefs that would leap from the wall and occupy enormous portions of the viewer’s space. “”During summer 1967, he temporarily set aside the implications of the Irregular Polygons to produce one of his most extraordinary series of band paintings devoted to relationships of colour, form and pattern.”” In 1983 Stella was named Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University (1983–4). The award required the recipient to give six lectures; in them he stressed the possibilities both for abstraction and specifically for his own art suggested by the dramatic illusionism of Baroque pictorial space.”” In the 1990s he became involved in public art projects, architecture and, most notably, the complex design of a new theatre in Toronto, marrying painting, sculpture, architecture and murals on a grand scale.”
      It does seem that this artist deals with the visual challenges each of has in refining the visual space we inhabit.  Not “on a grand scale,” but a significant familiar space.  As such, it is not at all elitist to be addressing these issues, but the question is how to convert his discoveries into something useful on a private scale.  I would say it’s how he analyzes a visual problem that intrigues me.  
         One other way I use design and art in my small apartment is through rugs.  Originally, it was because they have to fit together like a puzzle, about 20 of them, and so they “talk to” each other, interact.  I need a lamp that can shout back to a potentially exploding telephone pole transformer box and a terribly brightly lit garage, but the floor has other missions.  And I’m hoping to find — well, there is Twilight by — is it Jackson Pollock?  Available on a rug.  

    • Tina

      Ellen!  How great!  The impact of a rug — or rugs — especially outrageous in design — should not be overlooked!  I’ll keep this short, because I want to go to your link!  

      • Ellen Dibble

        I think there is a Jackson Pollock rug available too.  But sometimes art specifically designed to be for rugs is best.  I guess the rug weavers of Iran and Tibet and so on have demonstrated that they know their stuff, but there is plenty of Wal-Mart quality visuals in what we use for floor coverings.  We do the chairman Mao conformity thing with regard to lots of decorating.  White lamp shades (or Tiffany type shades, like nodding to Longfellow wordwise).   Lawns that are green, as close to carpeting as possible, though the soil might call out for herbs and wild flowers.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It seems to me the museums pick the art that is cutting edge and challenges the way tastes and vision is changing, or maybe that’s why it doesn’t address “What do I want to be viewing today at home?”
       But if you google Frank Stella posters, you’ll see Amazon.com has plenty of his work available, prints, or cheaper, posters.  And for a huge selection of Stella images almost all of which I like a lot, go to this site, http://art.shop.ebay.com/Art-from-Dealers-Resellers-/Art-from-Dealers-Resellers-/158658/i.html?_nkw=frank+stella
    It appears that the very best of his work is actually being SOLD.  OMG.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It seems to me the museums pick the art that is cutting edge and challenges the way tastes and vision is changing, or maybe that’s why it doesn’t address “What do I want to be viewing today at home?”
       But if you google Frank Stella posters, you’ll see Amazon.com has plenty of his work available, prints, or cheaper, posters.  And for a huge selection of Stella images almost all of which I like a lot, go to this site, http://art.shop.ebay.com/Art-from-Dealers-Resellers-/Art-from-Dealers-Resellers-/158658/i.html?_nkw=frank+stella
    It appears that the very best of his work is actually being SOLD.  OMG.

  • guest

    when did you know you would become an artist, and why did you want to go in that direction?

  • Tina

    I read a book either about Frank Stella OR by Frank Stella in 1971 when I drove with my brother down to Florida where his new job was located.  I’d just graduated from an art college, with a major in Painting.  The school had not been focussed on Abstraction at all, so I read eagerly, yet I was young enough to think I had to have an allegiance one way or another.  Once we got to Florida, there were plants that were gigantic and vividly graphic in form.  I started doing drawings that combined what I’d read in the Frank Stella book with what I saw in the palms and hibiscus.  So, it is so interesting for me to see his current work.  I can’t say that my drawings pre-saged his new paintings, but they were closer to his new work than to the severe intellectualism of his work by 1971 (altho, by reading the book, I did come to recognize the sensuality of that earlier work, as well as its intellectualism).  

  • Tina

    Oh, Mr. Stella, I was hoping you were going to say the OPPOSITE to what you just said about digital images!!!

    So far, in digital art, we only experience the IMAGE, we don’t experience the MATERIALITY, the SURFACE QUALITY, the WEIGHT!!!  
    Now, you’re saying that digital art might present texture at some point. Isn’t that like VINYL SIDING??? 

    Ohh…………. 

    YES!  Finally, you said that digital art is comparable to Illusionism!  Oh, I might have to retreat, yet again, to the Outsider Artists who just make their stuff, and I do mean STUFF, material STUFF!  But I DO like your work, even if I’m sad about the stance you just took.  Thanks!

    • Ellen Dibble

      Tina, I’ve been curious about the sense of participation between writers when they type on screen (if I’m being creative, I need a pen and paper), as well as visual artists who seem to go direct from concept to computer.  Frank Stella was talking about his two young assistants who help him get his ideas into whatever program realizes into three-dimensional creations.   It seems to me the kind of connectedness that leads to any art, the communicative passion, is sensual in some way, at some point, and for me, in visual arts, my medium of choice is collage, using plain construction paper.  Maybe there is another word for it that escapes me now.  I don’t do it much, but it always beckons me, and I note that Matisse used that medium when he was older, and I believe I read at the MOMA site that Stella has worked in that medium as well.   I think maybe younger people have that kind of bond with images on a digital screen; I wouldn’t have the sense of control.  As you say…

      • Tina

        Hi, Ellen, I hope you get to read this because I’m writing hours after the discussion aired.  I had to go out just after I read your reply to me, above. While out, I read this quote from David Hockney, “You begin with a jumble in your head.  You don’t begin with simple things.  You begin with a jumble and you have to carve it out!!”  When I first read a Frank Stella book (or a book about him that quoted him extensively) in 1971, I’d done by best work from the jumble in my head that I struggled and/or “danced” with until the material and I TOGETHER gave material form to my idea, or theme, or vision.  That said, there was really just too much jumble within my head for sanity’s sake; AND the jumble created bad work as well as my best work.  And, I wanted to learn not just how to be a painter, but how to be a fantastic art teacher who would expose her students to everything; yet not impose anything on them, while being fully aware that my students might not be able to “take” all this exposure any more than I could, without excessive exposure creating EXCESSIVE jumble, thus causing them to lose their embryonic sense of their OWN vision!    I think that that is what attracted me to Stella’s thoughts about artmaking, which I heard again today when he said, “I’m so committed to the structure, that once I start, I’m sort of committed to it!” (quote is as close as I could get it)   And he also said something about at least imposing limitations (an oft unspoken piece of wisdom about artmaking!) in the teaching of art (I think he also said that a solid sense of history should be part of the education of the artist, too). To this day, however, I still cannot be aesthetically successful if I work with a structure I’m committed to.  Before I got sick, I loved to dance:  Swing, Cajun, Zydeco, Latin.  I was told often that I was an excellent follower.  I never took that as a Feminist challenge, but enjoyed the compliments that I knew were  intended, because I knew that following well let me do things I could never have done on my own!!  Somehow or other, I do best following the pencil or paint or clay, too, and also following my Eye rather than my mind’s eye.  So, there are TWO concepts:  FOLLOWING; AND, the various sensuous MATERIAL MEDIUMS.  What I don’t understand about digital art might not be able to be said in this forum.  It seems so exclusively Imagistic (whether Decorative, or Graphic, or Illusionistic, or even “Perceptionist”) that, to me, it seems to be in the imaginative realm of the pornographic image rather than in the realm of real live lovemaking.  I just worry that the Sense of Control that digital artists can have is the same Sense of Control that warps people’s minds when they prefer the pornographic image over the real live flesh of the real live person they might otherwise be engaged with.  Now, I mean this even when the digital art image is of a tree, or a boat, or a house.  I mean this even when the digital artist has programmed in randomness.  I mean this even when the digital work is projected onto something material in the room or space.  There is something so creepy about extracting the material out of art endeavors, just like extracting real live partners out of other physical engagements.  We DO live in a material world.  We have earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes.  If someone were to say, “well good then, make the art digitally, and you won’t lose anything when disasters hit”, I’d say, if we don’t work with MATERIALS, we will have even less knowledge about and intuition about Material Events, which is what earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes ARE, as are Illness and Health and Public Events.  I’m not talking about the loss of material things alone, I’m talking about the Visual Arts providing us the forum to question and/or understand the Material Nature of Nature and the Material Nature of Ourselves As Part Of Nature.  I fear the loss of this kind of knowledge EVEN MORE when we speak about the sub-species of digital art work that is done completely by the use of algorithms rather than by the use of a mouse.  Apparently, some digital artists do their work completely with algorithmically-informed key strokes rather than by moving a mouse around a computer desktop.  I find it interesting that this kind of “work” CAN be done, but for it to be what we call “art work” is for me, once again, to promote pornography to the status of love making.  (I hope this doesn’t get deleted!).  And I hope I’ve made it clear that I am describing pornography in a very specific manner.  I describe it as an action of the mind that has been totally extracted away from a material engagement with the world that is outside the Self.  I don’t want art to go that way, but I don’t want to discuss pornography except as it relates to my fear about what is happening to art, at least in part.    Also, I’m not saying that Frank Stella’s art falls into this category; it’s just that the discussion did include the topic of digital art.  Why don’t I designate the BINARY components of algorithms as “material”?  I must say that I am somewhat afraid that there is an argument that would suggest to me that they are indeed Material, but I’m also open to that argument, which is why I am posting this piece in such detail.  “The medium is the message.”  Yes, but, now that we are so deep into that realm and/or era, do we need to make sure that we don’t define “medium” as if it means “material”?  Well, for now, I see binary components as a “schema of mind”. It is indeed totally amazing that such a schema has been utilized and has changed our world so extravagantly; yet, isn’t there a real discussion to be had when Visual Artists think nothing of jettisoning the Material?  Music has always been closer to being a non-material art, and yet … many musicians genuflect before the individual musical instrument that they feel allows them the best Sound and Range because of the Physical way in which it was made, and because of the very Materials that were used in making the instrument, and because of the very craftsmanship with which it was made.  Many visual artists today would say that a computer is just another tool to use, but, again (sort of), when did the Visual Arts care so much about Image without caring about the Materials that carry the image, or that helped to co-create the image (via that process of carving out the jumble)?!?  It may just be that I’m distressed because  digital art work has “parked itself” most closely to Painting which it often disdains.  Maybe if a large number of digital artists weren’t so dismissive of Painting, I wouldn’t be so worried.  Of course there currently is a state of co-existence, but it doesn’t always feel like PEACEFUL co-existence; it feels like Painting takes on a lot of sniper shots.  Any ideas or rebuttals?  Thanks!

        • Ellen Dibble

          Tina, this came to my Inbox this AM so…  I also zeroed in on that remark of Stella’s to the caller about not letting a work of art in process take the lead, but being committed to it once he gets it underway.   If he’s conceptualizing something and then giving it to his computer assistants who feed it into a program that renders it three-dimensional, then it would be a big project to ensure that his design/concept turns out the way he wants it.  It would be his assistants trying to realize his concept.  I’m wondering if along the way his concept wouldn’t have gone through many evolutions, evolutions which you and I might have had to commit to scrap paper over and over again.  
              I like the way you describe being a good dancer as being a good follower.   And maybe art is less about navel-gazing than some think.   This bit about “following” also acts as a creative force in everyday relationships.   You refer to “before I was ill,” and I am on the other side of that arc, getting healthier (getting to function more like other people, having about a third of my heavy metals chelated out at this point), and the “following” has shifted.  It’s like a muscle that couldn’t be used before.   In a 30-second phone call, the object is not to tend to business (not “just” to do that), but also the object is to see how much of that business can be conducted without being explicit.   We are not dancing where the steps are pre-decided.  We’re taking little risks, skipping steps, enjoying the way we did that.  
              I don’t know what to make of it.  But it’s allied to play and sense of humor, shared health – I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  And following that revelation, I don’t know how constraints of foreshortened relatedness feed into any art.  Artism/autism, how to connect without “following.”  Hmm.
               But I do agree with you when you say, “Students might not be able to “take” all this exposure any more than I could, without excessive exposure creating EXCESSIVE jumble, thus causing them to lose their embryonic sense of their OWN vision.”
                The artist/art teacher in this forum — I think you know who I mean — is guarding against jumble and — well, you can find that protest below.

          • Tina

            Ellen, I’ve spent today being radioactive, so I just saw your reply, above.  I’m gonna spend some of this weekend going over all the comments here, because I think this reply of yours makes reference to comments I haven’t seen yet; and I know you have other postings I haven’t been able to read yet at all, as do other people, regulars and names I don’t recognize.  I am so happy that this show elicited such great commentary on air and here!  If you remember, can you check back, maybe late-ish on Sunday, to see if I posted you a reply?  I know there is some new way we can alert one another to new comments & replies, but I think it goes thru Facebook & I’m not too keen on using F/B. Forgive me if I only have time to read instead of posting, too, but I’m looking forward to finding some of the “keys” to unlock the meaning of some parts of this post of yours!

          • Ellen Dibble

            Tina, because I “am” a business it’s not hard to get contact information.  Google my name, my state (Massachusetts), and court transcribers, and you’ll get all sorts of info.  Some of it outdated.  But if you e-mail me trying some of those links, or call me, that’d be fine; I’m here.  I do think that OnPoint probably hosts the best sort of conversations we could imagine, the best context, the best participants.  So…

          • Tina

            Hi, Ellen!  How cool!  Yesterday, I wrecked my arm which probably wouldn’t have agreed to get wrecked if it weren’t for my underlying situation, so I will try these suggestions of yours, but not quite yet, because the pain is making my concentration and even my happiness evasive.  I’m looking forward to following up asapossible!

          • Ellen Dibble

            Oh, which arm?  I am thinking that art has the most freight to carry when normal channels are speechless/disallowed/inchoate.  So by that theory you should be pulling out your paints.  Even if you came up with a few years of almost total black, with variations, you’d be saying something.  I listened to Democracy Now! this morning with Amy Goodman (it’s on the net), a compilation of conversations with Dr. Gabor Mate (with an accent aigu over the e), from Vancouver — early childhood in a Jewish ghetto in occupied Budapest.  He has four books about the way the immune system (and health in general) expresses suppression — into ADD, attention deficit, when caregivers are not emotionally present, which becomes ingrained; he is incensed that modern life expects children to gravitate to peers rather than parents/elders.  He points to teenage years in most cultures being a time of welcoming the young INTO the adult world, not rebellion and exclusion.  Think bar mitzvah, think African rituals of Becoming a Man or Woman.  Here, instead we have peer culture of cool and cruel, of bullying and being able to Not Care; we have gangs with an ethos of disconnectedness and disrespect.  He points to PTSD in utero creating cortisol and biological predisposition to suppress and disconnect.  In my humble opinion, not only childhood, but also sickness, in this culture becomes a state to shun.  Dr. Gabor Mate points to people not getting appropriate care if the whole person is not considered, rather than treating the symptoms that are expressing the person.  So when you say, wait, I’m not happy.  He’d say humans are not separate beings; they are linked; someone’s unhappiness has to be part of the fabric of his/her community/family/tribe.  In this case, if I can’t take that on board, I’d better learn soon.
                 Be well.  Or be what you are, mad and pained, if so.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Tina, because I “am” a business it’s not hard to get contact information.  Google my name, my state (Massachusetts), and court transcribers, and you’ll get all sorts of info.  Some of it outdated.  But if you e-mail me trying some of those links, or call me, that’d be fine; I’m here.  I do think that OnPoint probably hosts the best sort of conversations we could imagine, the best context, the best participants.  So…

          • Ellen Dibble

            Tina, because I “am” a business it’s not hard to get contact information.  Google my name, my state (Massachusetts), and court transcribers, and you’ll get all sorts of info.  Some of it outdated.  But if you e-mail me trying some of those links, or call me, that’d be fine; I’m here.  I do think that OnPoint probably hosts the best sort of conversations we could imagine, the best context, the best participants.  So…

          • Ellen Dibble

            Tina, because I “am” a business it’s not hard to get contact information.  Google my name, my state (Massachusetts), and court transcribers, and you’ll get all sorts of info.  Some of it outdated.  But if you e-mail me trying some of those links, or call me, that’d be fine; I’m here.  I do think that OnPoint probably hosts the best sort of conversations we could imagine, the best context, the best participants.  So…

  • Ellen Dibble

    The mountains of digital art is not so different from the mountains of visual inputs we get that is created by nature.  Open eyes, see whatever.
        But the art we select, whether to stir the visual brain or to enhance our personal lives, that is so different.  Choosing art, to me, is not unlike choosing a wardrobe.  Sometimes I need to refresh, and it’s not because I discard or get too fat, things like that.  But it’s also true that I need new visuals.  I’ll buy a book of pictures from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, or another museum I haven’t visited, in hopes of new images to populate my brain.
        It’s so different from the constantly unchanging world.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    What’s the difference between Jackson Pollock and a housepainter?  While both create drop cloths, at least the housepainter leaves you something worth having.

    • Ellen Dibble

      If you had a house painted by an artist, wow.  What a huge promotional piece.  I mean,, where I live, we have a railroad trestle with a mural on it depicting a big gash in it created by a too tall truck passing beneath it.  There was a big competition to do that mural.  If you had a house as distinctive as I am imagining, that would really put you on the map, as well as the artist who created it.

    • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

      Wow Greg, you sure know how to be a sourpuss about most everything. Might it be possible for you to voice your personal dislike of something without making a blanket statement that what you dislike should be disliked by all?

      I happen to like Pollock’s work as well as Stella’s.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        I was expressing my aesthetic judgement.  You are naturally free to form a different opinion.  I just doubt that Pollock will be remembered as one of the greats in the generations to come.

        • Ellen Dibble

          Greg, in the 1900s, when photography began to displace “art” as the medium to convey visual reality, as I see it, beginning in Paris, artists began to ask themselves what can we do that the camera canNOT do.
             Nowadays, the camera has been enhanced by photo-shopping of previously unimaginable technical prowess, and artists are still asking, but in different ways.  Integrating photography, for instance.  To some extent, anyone who watches TV advertisements has some sense (it seems to me) of where the visual arts are heading, but your position suggests that plenty of people have no idea, which is pretty close to asking:  Tell us.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            It’s not that we have no idea of where we’re heading; it’s where we’re going that bothers me.  Look at the art of the past.  The skill of the artist is obvious.  When I look at a Pollock painting, I see something that I could throw together in a day or so.

            What I see is symbolic of the swings from responsibility to freedom.  A democracy creates freedom, but we who participate in it have to live up to our responsibilities if the society is to survive and succeed.  The same is true for any art.  The mere creation of an object does not make it a work of art in any aesthetically meaningful way.

            I hope that as time goes by, order will return to the arts.  You may be correct to imply that the camera killed landscape and portrait painting, leaving painters to make abstract art.  I don’t make the aesthetic and emotional connection with abstract paintings, though, in the way that I do with earlier forms.  At the same time, much of modern literature and modern “classical” music leaves me cold.

            I don’t oppose experimentation.  What I wish is that artists would keep their experiments in the woodshed until they’ve worked out a new system or school of creation.

          • Ken Wilson

            Look at the art of the past. The skill of the artist is obvious. When I look at a Pollock painting, I see something that I could throw together in a day or so.

            But not the idea. :-)

          • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

            Well said Ken.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            No, the idea would require a bottle of Bourbon.

          • Ellen Dibble

            LOL
            I think he began with a bottle of bourbon and shook it up.
            Do we have to be sanctimonious?   I might prefer Greg Camp’s critique to some of the critics that Frank Stella said he was evading by doing the black series, something he thought the critics would have nothing to say to.  Hah!

          • Tina

            Greg, the thing I tend to do when I am distressed about a direction that any of the arts is going is to open myself up to it by voicing my current objections.  You can read some of my objections to certain aspects of digital art in comments I’ve posted here.  I openly express my distress hoping that people will give me a new way of assessing what I don’t currently like.  My ultimate goal is usually to find understanding and appreciation.  Sometimes this is a real struggle.  I once researched and wrote a 28-page paper in school to try to get to a real understanding of how there could be  positive comments about an art movement I felt negatively about.  It’s true that some of my objections to digital art come more from the dismissing of Painting by some very powerful digital artists I know of right now.  I’d prefer to like both digital art and Painting, but find myself on the defensive because of the extremely negative comments coming from the other corner in my region of the world at this point.  Is any of this going on with you and your comments?  

          • Tina

            And maybe not the grace and virility of movement that was one of his main tools in making the paintings.  (forgive me if I’ve misjudged; you might even have those qualities, but would you have had “the idea” is use your physical presence in this way?)

          • Ellen Dibble

            Someone said we get fixated on the popular music of our teenage years.  For me, that was the era of the Beetles, and yes, I think that era created MUCH better bop and pop than the 1970s or the ’80s or — well, then I just tune out.  I can’t get into modern “classical” music — except for exceptions that may not seem modern to others.  Bartok to me is modern, for instance.  And I don’t like all of it.  I think that for old standards,  taste and familiarity have weeded out the eccentric bits.  The artists didn’t weed them out.  Time did.  Are there composers where I listen to the entire opus?  Scott Joplin I think I did.  Artists, those I’d look at anything they do tend also to be my parents’ generation, German Expressionism, for instance.  The emotions around the second World War in Europe seem to resonate in my visual sphere.  But it’s one thing to have a framework of “appreciation” in your bones, part of your coming into cultural awareness.  It’s another thing to understand where that art’s cutting edge is.  Perhaps every teenager with a radio and a set of drums knows where the cutting edge of pop music is, and every street kid with a set of chalks and a subway wall knows where the cutting edge of visual arts is.  
                 But I grieve when I realize that the great, great pillars of emotional support that I found in the arts when I was younger seem to have melted away.  The residue, reminders of what they meant, are not the same as fresh new waves seizing me, lifting me, moving me to new footing.  This is what art should be able to do for us.  I suspect it’s easier in any art to achieve that for young people.  Old people get set in their ways.  But I think our emotions are — what — a whole lot better.  I’m tempted to say richer.  Not more intense but more informed, more structured.  
                I am not moved to tears by visual art, but some are.   If you think you have to like “late Picasso” but prefer his earlier realist art, so what?  No one’s grading you on what pleases you.  

        • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

          … and god forbid anyone would like an artist (visual, musician, filmmaker, etc.) who hasn’t been deemed “one of the greats” by Greg Camp.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            No, your money and your reasoning are yours to choose, and I’ll do anything within my power to defend your right to them.  And to artists of any type to produce what they will.  I wouldn’t buy the infamous Robert Maplethorpe photographs, and I see no reason to look at them, but I support his right to make them and your right to appreciate them or not.

            I look at art criticism the same way.  In the marketplace of ideas, we express our opinions and participate in the debate.  That’s what we’re doing here, not dictating rules that will be enforced on society.  This is persuasion, not compulsion.

        • Ellen Dibble

          I’ll try to quote a revered visual artist from my area who once told me, “He had the colossal bad luck to live at the same time as Rembrandt.”  I forget which artist it was.  
               To me, it is very evident that artists like Rembrandt or Shakespeare or many, many others don’t erupt sui generis, like Venus on the half-shell, out of the ocean.  They are a product of their times, the way the King James Bible was enriched by all that led up to it and all the ways of speaking English that surrounded the 50 writers.  So if you strip Leonardo of the Renaissance, he maybe loses his funding, and the spirit of engagement via the visual arts pulls back, and the artists he is competing with cease to nip at his heels, and cease to serve as subtle inspiration.  People are not doing somersaults with traditions.  Why try new things.  Have you read his entire notebooks?  I believe Bill Gates has them.  I believe the guy wrote shorthand, so it might not matter.  But for people who care how something gets started, it matters.  Bill Gates, in the American century, is an example of how something in the right economic ecosystem can become the Leonardo of the business world.  
             In other words, you may appreciate those standing on the shoulders of others, but don’t disrespect the parents, the mentors, those whose shadows you don’t care to follow into.  They are essential too, essential to those are part of the general ferment of creativity and innovation.  I can’t say I really care whether someone “survives” for 400 years.  Didn’t the Babylonian epic disappear for millennia?  It happens.  But did people use it as a building block for understanding their lives for the times when it was shakin’?   
              And if you think anything that shakes out of an individual’s head is meaningless, think again. Sigmund Freud would start with a stray strand and trace backwards to structural tragedies.  I sometimes think the modern art that is meaningless to me represents strands like that, needing only an interpreter to “see.” If I fail to see “it,” what else is new?  I feel lesser but I don’t leap to the conclusion that the art is lesser.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            Ah, Freud.  Michael Crichton called him the greatest novelist of the twentieth century.

          • Tina

            Ellen, That was BRILLIANT!!!  

      • Ellen Dibble

        A wet blanket statement, that is.  

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          When the house is burning down, a wet blanket is a useful tool.

    • thatsnosurprise

      that is an imbecilic remark.  pick up a paintbrush and show us how it’s done, home boy.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        You’re suggesting that one has to be an artist to evaluate a work?  There are a great many art critics who would take exception to your remark.

        • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

          An art critic you are not Greg. You have no sense of art history (from your comments) nor do you have an open mind.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            I disagree with your sense of art history, but that doesn’t mean that I have no sense of my own.  I prefer Bach to Cage, Leonardo to Pollock, and Shakespeare to Proulx.  That’s my sense.

          • http://richardsnotes.org Richard

            Great, so why even comment in a thread on Frank Stella, an artist who you don’t even care for? Just to exercise your argumentative skills?

            You have no sense of my sense of art history, my comments here are simply to point out that you seem to have a very limited sense of it.

            Liking and disliking art is not a zero sum game: one likes Bach and that means one must also like Escher but not Pollock. And, having a sense of history and an understanding of the importance of artists in the sweep of it is quite different from wanting their work hanging in one’s house or even liking their work.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            One does not have to like a type of art to have a sense of it.  Much of the twentieth century and the twenty-first are a wasteland to me, but that doesn’t mean that I have no sense of it.

          • Anonymous

             Greg I agree with Richard. I’m not a fan of this kind of art. I’m not a fan of bad realism either.
            However, I’m not going to make comments as I think it’s a waste of time.  What I think you are objecting too is the nihilism of much of the post-modern art out there.

          • Ellen Dibble

            Oooh, geffe.  Nihilism!  You want to tell me what that is?  How about existentialism, whether something “is,” or “isn’t,”  whether something matters or not.   How many ways can an artist say “I don’t care.”   Or, “I’ve been shell-shocked; pardon my post traumatic stress syndrome.”  “I am just whiling my time on earth inside this echoing brainpan.”  
                 Really?  
                 I could understand how such a kind of modernism might be coming out of the violence of the 1914-18 era in Europe, but how would it take root and grow?  (Wouldn’t it commit suicide like any self-respecting mangled soul?  Sorry.  Bad joke.)  Or is there something fundamental about — I was going to say nakedness, but I’ll try “insanity”?  
                I really wonder.  Why all the effort.  “The Wasteland.”  The name seems to me to stand right there, where meaning goes off the ledge.  Now I keep seeing lemming style behaviors and wonder if it’s reflected in visuals that seem like a demand to pose an ultimate question:  “I will stand here like a totally mortgaged future, like a doomed question mark.  Learn to live with me.  I will assert myself.”
                It’ll take another show, pitting a philosopher against another minimalist, to shake that one out in the sunshine.  

          • Anonymous

            A lot of contemporary art is nihilistic and self absorbed. If you don’t think so or agree with me that’s not my problem. You mention WW1 when you should at least know I’m talking about everything post WW2. You go on with a sarcastic bent which seems to prove my point. Do you enjoy the ugliness? Most of what I see out there in the contemporary art world seems to enjoy being self absorbed, about ugliness and yes nihilistic. Plenty of it out there. Mind you the it’s not all of contemporary art, but an awful lot of it. This is why I find these discussions such a waste of time. People have their camps and they are stuck in them. Life is to short for this crap.

          • Tina

            Geffe, Theoretically speaking, can a person be “self absorbed” and “nihilistic” simultaneously?  I always felt — felt deeply — that nihilism was so bleak that a total loneliness ensued which even the Self could not amend.  It is true that I got this impression of nihilism when I was perhaps too young to be exposed to any works that were understood to have been based on it (age 12, first year of junior high, leaving my preferred kinds of books, like Johnny Tremaine, behind for the required reading of the school downtown rather than the one around the corner that we had walked to along the brook path lined with honeysuckles).  

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    What’s the difference between Jackson Pollock and a housepainter?  While both create drop cloths, at least the housepainter leaves you something worth having.

  • Raymond Gaddy

    Mr. Sella,

    As and artist and professor I’m very interested in the materials of art. You have worked in so many materials and used so many processes. Are there any limits to the materiality of art and in particular painting. Mr Ashbrook mentioned you work on copper. How does this work fit into the history of art materials (copper being a very old surface to paint on).

  • Danwetmore

    Please ask Frank Stella to speak a little about William Green.

  • Tina

    DUSTIN (caller) — THANK YOU!!  Great question/statement!  And, Mr. Stella, THANKS for your reply!

    “I’m so committed to the structure, that once I start, I’m sort of committed to it”!!  Ahhhh — that is a major difference in how Frank Stella works and how I was taught to work and how I work naturally!  Maybe that is why he isn’t as threated by digital art as I am.  I’m threatened by it because my brain would never be organized enough to not have the computer’s memory punch out all over the place; but also, because a SCREEN just is not sensuous to me, whereas, SOME paint on SOME surfaces is so beautiful to me, THAT is what I’m interested in.  (That so many people have been willing to abandon the sensuality of paint for a computer screen’s surface astounds me.)  But, if you are interested in a pre-determined shape or set of shapes (is that what I learned from that book long ago, and had forgotten?), then, yes, you would use the tools that would help you achieve your goals.  If you want to work with materials that you love and see where you go with them, then you have to use the materials you love.  Some people therefore work with paint, but for others, the material is The Digital.  

    Wow, now a caller is being so fantastically articulate about the tension between the Abstract and the Real.  This conversation is great! 

  • Tina

    Tom, That was a FABULOUS INTERVIEW!!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Art transcends language.  It is universal.  Further, it is instantaneous; one doesn’t have to decide EITHER I listen to the music OR I talk about it, or both, or one followed by the other.  Art and talk radio can be simultaneous.  
        The question of what does various visual art mean, why is it meaningful — in this changing cultural climate — it’s a big issue.  
       It is probably a very big issue to people who find themselves called to be artists.   (Maybe people who drive around in cars have their visual appetites sated or confused by the amount of imagery they take in, but that’s kind of too bad, IMHO.)
        But I hope this interview is followed by others with artists, although I guess it goes without saying that visual artists don’t have the spoken word as their chosen medium.   (I mean, Colbert had three in a row, so why not.)
    I’d say our conformist all-white rows of houses are suggestive of the all-pervasive “chairman Mao suit” in Communist China. We go from flamingos on the front lawn to Rodin and Picasso with no in between.

  • Susanbazett

    More living artist please. The Frank Stella interview was too short. This is our history. Art please people.

    • Tina

      Yes!  Instead of the critics TELLING us about artists and their work, let’s hear more from the artists themselves!  Tom did a fabulous interview, as usual, but the various topics that came up are so rare to hear on radio, so I was so grateful.  Radio CAN render the visual better than many people allow (think of how vividly war zones are described, so why not the visual arts?!), and the gallery of pictures on this site were great; and, of course, with Google, we can find sites that let us see more while we listen!  Bravo! 

  • Onthewallinc

    This comment applies to the Winfrey Show as well as this interview with Frank Stella.  As a former gallery owner I will forever remember the disdain I received from the editor of a community newspaper – a black man – over the fact that our featured artist, Charles Gaines, didn’t necessarily make art commenting on racism.   Interested in systems art, Gaines’ work can be difficult to absorb but the fact that someone felt he was obligated to address racial matters simply because he is a black man was very distressing.  Coincidentally we were also showing the work of a South African white woman, Sue Williamson, who was addressing racism, as this was the 1980s and apartheid was alive and well.  No one had a problem with a white woman commenting on racism and I doubt anyone would have had a problem had her work been apolitical.  She had the freedom to do what she wanted but our African-American artist did not.    

  • Emjade

    As I listen to the interview I chuckle since I remember Frank Stella as a budding young artist back in the late 50s early 60s.  I was one of 7 sisters born in an area where the artist began and his father talked of his son the artist…his father was close to my mother in ways that only a mother delivering a child can understand….he was the first to greet us into the world and his son made him proud.  My mother was intrigued by his art and I lose that he has become so well known and respected.

  • Emjade

    Correction…..I love that he is so well respected.

  • Steve Paxton

    Hi Frank.  Enjoyed your talk on the radio.  No slack moments.  I like your characterizations, as ‘the issue in a Caravaggio’, the ‘problem of the figure in Abstract Art.’
        I wish I had called in to ask you about the ‘problem of humor in Abstract art, or any art…’  Just to say, looking at your work through the years gets me high as a kite, the progression from early austerity to the freeing of shape and color to the amazing complexity of some later stuff seems a fantastic flowering.  Thanks for it all.  

  • Treslongwell

    trying to listen to the podcast, getting the wrong program : “can you teach teaching”

  • an OnPoint listener

    This audio doesn’t match this show about Frank Stella!  :(

  • Pingback: Stella, He Da Man « Slow Muse

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BEAXWPFMBMXNC2ARJSL5RCT27A sdfgjh

    Thank you Tom for this wonderful interview.

  • Pingback: Color and Space: Frank Stella | Form & Force

  • Anne

    Does Mr. Stella have advice for young artists on making a living as an artist?

  • Dcolley3

    At the end of the 1930′s The New Deal supported policies that promoted art and artists. This was seen as playing a large role in the cultural re-construction of America. Are we in need of a re-investment in culture in America today? Is the high price of work like Damien Hurst’s 12 million shark alienating to the broader idea of what art is and what it should represent in American culture?

  • Jan Devereux

    Your comments on your racing series reminded me of our mutual friend, the late Peter Gregg, one of the greatest race car drivers of all-time. We met in the summer of 1980 when you test-drove one of Peter’s cars on the race track in Lime Rock, CT. I’ve always loved the explosive power and passion of your racing series, in part for the memories they evoke. Stay well.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NUQ4XMTZ32OAXZSJHIWPBOOJ2I GH

    Anxiously awaiting you guys fixing the links.  Can’t listen to the show.

    • Dsaf

      Not sure what the problem was, but it works for me.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NUQ4XMTZ32OAXZSJHIWPBOOJ2I GH

        I click on “Listen to the Show” and get an error message about video not found(?)  Might be something on my end but I’ve listened to shows before.

        • Alex Kingsbury

          Try deleting your cookies in your web browser and reloading the page. This clears up most problems. Let me know if you’re still having trouble.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VLAAJXZCHQ2GVIUHVTVNF6EIAI J.R

    Wow, best hotel art I’ve seen in, like….weeks. I can’t believe his work is relevant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002533377627 Daniel Kadaligogh

    This is what I am imagining as 3D digital art, I just need to learn how to encode it for the hardware, but it is coming soon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9flTb-r9wLU
    Also I have been making painted old TV’s with computers attached to play these moving paintings I have been making, I have an exhibit in Austin in March, and the devices I make to display the art are textured.
    Kadaligogh.com
    Daniel Kliewer

    • Littlehouseart

      brillant

  • Pingback: Painter frank | Trd4runner

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002883535419 Lexi Reynolds

    what are the names of the paintings more detail!!!!!!

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