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Frank Stella A Pioneer Of Minimalism Has Died Aged 87

Frank Stella, a pioneer of Minimalism whose groundbreaking abstract paintings reshaped the trajectory of modern art, passed away at 87. His wife, Harriet E. McGurk, confirmed to the New York Times that the cause of death was lymphoma.

Stella emerged in the late 1950s when, at 22, he embarked on a revolutionary exploration of abstract painting. His iconic “Black Paintings,” characterized by spare compositions of parallel lines against stark backgrounds, challenged the prevailing conventions of Abstract Expressionism. These works imbued with a sense of foreboding and contradiction, debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1959, marking the beginning of Stella’s ascent to artistic prominence.

Over the course of his illustrious career, which spanned more than six decades, Stella continued to push the boundaries of artistic expression, exploring new forms, sculpture, colours, and concepts. His relentless experimentation earned him acclaim and recognition, with retrospectives at esteemed institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Born in Malden, Massachusetts, on May 12, 1936, Stella was nurtured by his family’s creative background. After studying history at Princeton University, he relocated to New York City, where he immersed himself in the vibrant art scene of the Lower East Side.

Stella’s artistic evolution unfolded through a series of distinct phases, from the geometric precision of his early works to the exuberant complexity of his later pieces. His oeuvre encompasses various mediums, from painting and printmaking to sculpture and architectural installations.

Throughout his life, Stella remained a fiercely independent and innovative artist, unfraid to challenge established norms and conventions. His boundless creativity and unwavering dedication to his craft left an indelible mark on the art world, inspiring generations of artists to come.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Stella was an avid sportsman known for his passion for squash and his competitive spirit on and off the court. He was married twice, first to the esteemed art critic Barbara Rose and later to Harriet E. McGurk.

In 1970, at 34, Frank Stella became the youngest artist ever to receive a full-scale retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He received a second retrospective at the same institution in 1987 — an unprecedented occurrence in the museum’s history.

Frank Stella’s legacy as a visionary abstract artist has influenced subsequent generations of artists, proving the transformative power of art in all its forms.

Photo © Jack Mitchell Courtesy Opera Gallery

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Abstract Art, Frank Stella, minimalism