Frank Stella At Leslie Sacks Contemporary

Pick of the week for June 25th, 2012

Frank Stella has created distinct bodies of work every decade for the past 50 years. His working methodology has defined the template of the contemporary artist-variations on a theme. Whether by his artistic nature or by design, this approach has all but become de rigueur in MFA Programs and art fairs around the world.

With each succeeding decade, Stella’s ambitions became larger as did his paintings (and they didn’t start on a intimate scale.) In the late 60’s, with a decade of painterly investigations already under his belt, Stella turned to the print medium. For his generation, he was actually a late bloomer when it came to graphic output. Not only did he play catch up with his peers in the medium but soon lapped them with technical bravado and output that dazzled,

The currently exhibition at Leslie Sacks Contemporary offers a terrific focused look on an productive decade from ’74 to ’84 when Stella got his groove back. Of course some may say he never lost it in the first place.

Stella’s approach to print making was tentative at first, restating and revisiting themes from the early part of his career. In such Stella’s productivity in the print medium, thematically at least, has a 10 year or so lag. The prints in the Sacks Exhibition draw heavily from the protractor series from the mid to late sixties. However, unlike the stripe painting reiterations, the protractor inspired prints use the motif as a point of departure for technical wizardry.

Frank Stella, Polar Co-ordinates VII, 1980 Offset lithograph, screenprint and letterpress 38 x 38 1/2 inches Edition of 100 Signed, dated and numbered in pencil

Polar Co-ordinates for Ronnie Peterson best exemplifies both the facile approach to motif and the ground breaking, at times dizzying layering of both color, touch and media. The series is based on two paintings from the Saskatoon Paintings of 1967-70 namely Flin Flon and Saskatoon. Each variation presents a cloverleaf pattern drawn from bisected, overlayed and bifurcated protractors. The prints playfully offer variations, each of which is distinct in tone and execution.

The printing is so heavily layered that it becomes a painting really. Take for instance Variant VII: There are 53 runs from 37 plates and 13 screens and 1 block. Some screens were created photographically from drawings on Mylar and metallic inks and glitterflex were also used.

Certainly the niftiest discovery was that the registration holes, two on varying sides of the prints, are part of each piece.

The Sacks exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to witness in person images that may have become recognizable as art historical touchstones. In reproduction they may impress but they ultimately fail to convey the wizardry of artist/master printer collaboration. See the exhibition and you’ll be stunned at the retinal fireworks.

Frank Stella, Selected Prints at Leslie Sacks Contemporary continues through July 28th, 2012

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, June 25th, 2012


also by Mario M. Muller

One response to “Frank Stella At Leslie Sacks Contemporary”

  1. Love the work, so refreshing, have you ever seen glen ligon’s drawings>prints that kids filled in?

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