Frank Stella, artist known for his pioneering work in minimalism, dies at 87

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Frank Stella, a painter, sculptor and printmaker whose constantly evolving works are hailed as landmarks of the minimalist and post-painterly abstraction art movements, died Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

Gallery owner Jeffrey Deitch, who spoke with Stella’s family, confirmed his death to The Associated Press. Stella’s wife, Harriet McGurk, told the New York Times that he died of lymphoma.

Born May 12, 1936, in Malden, Massachusetts, Stella studied at Princeton University before moving to New York City in the late 1950s.

Frank Stella
Frank Stella poses in front of a mural reproduction of his 1970 painting, “Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation I),” along Seaport Boulevard in Boston on Oct. 24, 2019.

Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images


At that time many prominent American artists had embraced abstract expressionism, but Stella began exploring minimalism. By age 23 he had created a series of flat, black paintings with gridlike bands and stripes using house paint and exposed canvas that drew widespread critical acclaim.

Over the next decade, Stella’s works retained his rigorous structure but began incorporating curved lines and bright colors, such as in his influential Protractor series, named after the geometry tool he used to create the curved shapes of the large-scale paintings.


Frank Stella on his artistic obsessions

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In the late 1970s, Stella began adding three-dimensionality to his visual art, using metals and other mixed media to blur the boundary between painting and sculpture.

Stella continued to be productive well into his 80s, and his new work is currently on display at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in New York City. The colorful sculptures are massive and yet almost seem to float, made up of shining polychromatic bands that twist and coil through space.

“The current work is astonishing,” Deitch told AP on Saturday. “He felt that the work that he showed was the culmination of a decades-long effort to create a new pictorial space and to fuse painting and sculpture.”

When asked in a 2021 interview with CBS Sunday Morning why he always preferred abstract to figurative art, Stella joked, “because I didn’t like people that much…Yeah, I mean, you know, everybody was doing that, or I didn’t want to spend a lot of time drawing from the model. You know when you see that poor girl sitting up there on that chair after she has to take off her bathrobe and everything, it’s pretty pitiful!”



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