People are going to hate me for this. I'm about to admit to a guilty pleasure that for most of my friends is the equivalent of dog torture or child molesting. That guilty pleasure is the painting and sculpture of abstract expressionist Frank Stella.
To be honest, I don't know why I like it. I admit up front that it sometimes seems uncomfortably safe and and restrained, the kind of thing you'd see in banks and dentist offices. You don't get the feeling that some rebellious genius worked on it. And yet....
I have to admit that some of Stella's older pictures haven't aged well. Like everybody else at the time I thought the picture above was a profound and dazzling revelation when I first saw it. Now it seems like a logo for a bus company.
So why do I like this stuff? Maybe because it makes me think. I get ideas every time I look at it. It's all about order in the middle of chaos. Other artists manage to juggle a few incongruities and make them work...Stella manages to take a really large number of them and not only make them work, but actually find meaning in it all. And life is a jumble isn't it? I spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure it out, and so does Stella, only he does it better than I do.
Stella's work is an interesting blend of the intuitive and the intellectual. It's very human in that respect. It seems to me that a real understanding and enjoyment of life requires that we use intellect and intuition simultaneously. When I walk down the street I, and probably everybody else, take in both kinds of information. I'm amazed that the brain can process all that, and still allow us to count our change at the grocery store. Actually, the job might be too big for our brains because few of us ever come to a conclusion about the things we see, but you get the feeling that agonizing over it is somehow good for us. Stella seems to understand that.
Here (above) he seems to have been influenced by Hockney, or maybe it was Hockney that was influenced by Stella. Very happy and pretty.
In recent years Stella's gotten interested in architecture. He does a lot of sculptures that seem like they could be buildings. The idea isn't to create finished models of workable buildings, rather it's to provoke the viewer to come up with his own ideas. For example, what do you see in the picture above? Me, I see a dark matrix that contains a house made of glass walls, and even glass floors. Then again, I sometimes think of the matrix itself as the building. It's one continuous skyscraper, a city-size building that snakes along, and has offshoots that take different paths.
Even this sculpture (above) seems architectural to me. I don't know why, because there's no hint of walls or a roof. I usually don't like Frank Gehry-type architecture that looks like sculpture blown up large. It wastes space, and often has disappointing interiors. In spite of that, I like Stella when he does the same thing in miniature. Maybe it's because Stella doesn't attempt to force his design solutions on us. He's just asking questions.
Above is what looks like the love child of a bag of fish tails with a stationary store. I don't don't know why I like it, but I do.
On a completely different subject, let me ask if you've seen this book (above) yet. It's way overpiced, but it contains a lot of Calder's best wire caricatures.
Imitating Caulder, I did some of these myself and hung them in windows. It's a great effect because the wire is so thin and delicate that you're not even aware it's there at first. It's a treat for people who randomly happen to change their focus while looking out the window, and are rewarded with seeing a face that no one else sees.