Frank Stella was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1936 and studied at Princeton University. Stella’s auspicious start in New York, only a year after his graduation from Princeton, was an exhibit of the Black Paintings of 1959-60. Viewed as a precursor to Minimalism, these pivotal works led to his inclusion in Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art and the notice of its director, Alfred Barr, who purchased a painting, The Marriage of Squalor and Reason. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Stella’s work was included in several landmark exhibits of abstract painting including Geometric Abstraction, Whitney Museum (1962); Toward a New Abstraction, Jewish Museum (1963); Dokumenta 4 (1968); New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-70, Metropolitan Museum of Art (1970); Structure of Color, Whitney Museum (1971).
In the 70s, Stella’s work moved toward three-dimensional paintings on shaped canvases and later toward wall constructions with multiple components, ever projecting further from their supports. Stella’s second retrospective at MOMA in 1987 concluded with a series of daring reliefs based on Melville’s Moby Dick. These works further blurred any boundary between paintings and sculpture.
In 1983-84 Stella gave the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University. These lectures, later published under the title Working Space, marked a critical juncture for the artist. A spirited defense of abstraction, they could well sum up Stella’s approach to painting and have acted as a manifesto for his work since.
Since the 1980s, the artist has completed a number of large-scale works for public spaces, confirming Stella’s abiding interest in architecture. A vast commission during the early 90s, involving the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto, has led to a series of architectural proposals and commissions over the past eight years, including his Bandshell for the City of Miami.