Magazine article Artforum International

Frank Stella

Magazine article Artforum International

Frank Stella

Article excerpt

Art-historically retardataire in its extravagant acknowledgment of junk sculpture and assemblage, Frank Stella's series "New Work: Projects and Sculpture," 1992, nevertheless represents an "advance" in terms of Stella's own oeuvre: a continuation of his violent dismemberment of the flat painting constructions that originally made his reputation. The seemingly infinite play of textures in the new works is hypnotic, creating a chillingly brittle sensuality--as "manufactured" and subliminally macabre as that of the early painting constructions. It is as though each sculpture were a damaged, discarded, obsolete robot in an industrial graveyard--its decaying, suppurating flesh establishing a contrast to his earlier, smoothly functioning mechanical abstractions. But Stella's self-deconstruction and self-overturning fail to eradicate the aura of ironic impersonality created by the austere asymmetry of the earlier painting constructions--fail, that is, to make a "personal statement."

Stella is now faced with the problem of moving beyond his initial heroic innovation, as was Pablo Picasso after Cubism. Picasso solved this dilemma in part by using Cubism for "autobiographical" purposes, exaggerating the Cubist articulation of spatial discontinuity, so that it seemed to bespeak the absurdity of the self. But Stella has never been theatrically open about himself, however much the titles of his works suggest a certain attitude--here they allude to declining French mining towns; the color discontinuities, spatial flaws, and ironies of his early painting constructions seem to simplify and stylize absurdity. Certainly Stella's move away from bright, often flashy color to a virtually colorless, if at times silvery sobriety suggests a change in attitude. It is as though Stella were highlighting the contrast--one that changed in nature from the first to the final versions of the Dusseldorf Proposal, 1992--between the three grim works (models for sculptures) and the thinly, almost comically colored model of the exhibition hall that contains them. …

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