As I was rumbling into Manhattan on the E train en route to meet Frank Stella, the world famous minimalist painter, sculptor and printmaker, I had the usual network of concerns and stresses rolling around my head, making it hard to focus on my task. This is one of the pitfalls of writing: one minute you are pinned under the weight of writer’s block, and another you float helplessly in a nebulous void.
Likewise, minimalist art blurs the lines between the physical and the emotional, and Frank Stella is one of the artists whose work best exemplifies this movement. This does not suggest that either is unimportant. Stella, speaking at his NYC exhibition entitled Experiment and Change, stated, “You have to have confidence in the structure, to trust in it.”
Stella’s interest in surfaces and structures has led him to explore the digital and technological applications of art. For instance, he has created sculptures that have been replicated through 3D printing, and to which he describes (ala Plato) as a model that comes from a model. These pieces reflect what Stella described as his industrial drive in the creation of his art. It also supports the minimalist standard of erasing the strict demarcations between media: in this case man-made sculpture and computer automation.
I asked Frank Stella that since minimalism puts such a focus on space and time, what challenge he faces at exhibitions like this one where all the images are projected on a bare white wall. Expecting a more explicit answer, I was satisfied when Stella, a humble and outwardly uncomplicated man, answered, the images on the screen lack real “pop.”
The morning continued with co-presenter, and event curator, Bonnie Clearwater, discussing Stella’s work as well as sharing stories of their long friendship. Ms. Clearwater is the NSU Art Director, as well as the author of several books on contemporary art. Her meticulous analysis juxtaposed Stella’s casual humility. When Ms. Clearwater discussed, in the most complimentary manner, how Stella’s work is historically important, the artist simply smiled and nodded as if he knew it but would never say it himself. Speaking in the most accessible way, Stella explained how art, in general, derives from our own experiences and within the time we are given. “Always draw upon the past for the art we create now.”
As the discussion continued, I realized that I was no longer contemplating the stresses that followed me through the turnstiles of the subway. This gallery with its geometricity and artistic buzz had allowed me to disappear into my role as a journalist for a time. Not surprisingly, when asked, as we tend to do on this luxury lifestyle site, how do you define personal luxury, Frank Stella, whose work and fame stretches across the globe, answered simply, “Luxury for me is having time to focus.”
- Michael Alpiner