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Frank Stella: Sunapee IV, 1966
Frank Stella: Sunapee IV, 1966
Oil on shaped canvas
127 x 125 inches
Frank Stella: Ctesiphon I, 1968
Frank Stella Ctesiphon I, 1968


One of the most significant painters of the last half century, Frank Stella achieved instant acclaim at the age of 23 with his flat, minimalist black paintings. With their geometric patterns of rings and stripes, these non-representational, non-gestural works eschewed narratives or illusionism in favor of a direct focus on color, shape, and structure. By the following year, Stella was included in the important Sixteen American exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1959). The first major shift in the artist’s work came in 1966 with his Irregular Polygon series in which he began using large, uninterrupted fields of color, and moved away from the strict adherence to the flat surface. The variation in colors and complex, asymmetric shapes created a vacillation between painting and object, flatness and depth. These works, along with his famed monumental Protractor series, further extend the concept of the shaped canvas. His work was included in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s influential Shaped Canvas (1965) show, and in 1970, Stella became the youngest artist to become the subject of a retrospective at Museum of Modern Art, receiving a second in 1987. His art has since been the subject of several retrospectives, most recently at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2012).