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Paint It Black

 Three Frank Stella talking points for the artist's upcoming retrospective at the de Young.

Frank Stella, St. Michael's Counterguard, 1984.



More than 50 years’ worth of works from seminal American painter and sculptor Frank Stella will be on display at the de Young this fall (Nov. 5–Feb 26, 2017). Here’s how to sound smart about the famously abstruse artist. 

1. Mention the Black Paintings period. Stella shook New York’s art scene in the late 1950s with his Black Paintings series—geometric bands of black house paint separated by blank pinstripes of canvas—which signaled a break with earlier abstract expressionism and marked him as an early minimalist pioneer.

2. Slip in “What you see is what you see.” The artist’s famous quote, uttered in 1966, reinforces the idea of nonrepresentational painting: The work doesn’t symbolize anything deeper than what you see.

3. Comment on his evolution. Although he remains best known for his early paintings, Stella’s later works incorporated a broader palette of color, shapes, and scale before eventually turning into three-dimensional reliefs and sculptures (see above).

Originally published in the September issue of
San Francisco 

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